9 religious companies (besides Chick-fil-A)
July 24th, 2012
12:00 PM ET

9 religious companies (besides Chick-fil-A)

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

As the controversy over Chick-fil-A’s founder publicly opposing same-sex marriage continues - Mike Huckabee is pushing for a Chick-fil-A day, while the Jim Henson Co. is cutting ties to the chain - we’re republishing our list of 10 other religious companies.

Our initial list was provoked by an earlier Chick-fil-A/same-sex marriage controversy. Is our list missing any names? Tweet us at @CNNBelief to let us know.

Here are 10 well-known companies that don't make religious products - we're not talking kosher foods manufacturer Manischewitz here - but that nonetheless take their religious sides seriously (listed in no particular order).

1. Forever 21. The young women’s clothing company may be best known for its skimpier and saucier offerings, but it also exudes subtle piety. The words John 3:16 – a citation of a biblical verse popular among evangelical Christians - appears at the bottom of its stores' shopping bags. A spokeswoman for the company told The New York Sun that the message is a "demonstration of the owners' faith."

2. Tom’s of Maine. After launching the natural home products company in 1970 with his wife Kate, CEO Tom Chappell nearly left it to pursue full-time Christian ministry. While receiving a master's at Harvard Divinity School, however, a professor advised him to just treat his business as ministry. “He began bringing in different spiritual leaders to talk to the board about how they could use spiritual principles to run the company,” says the Tyson Center's Neal. Beyond environmentalism, the company seeks to "create a better world by exchanging our faith, experience, and hope."

3. Tyson Foods, Inc. The world's largest chicken company employs a team of chaplains who minister to employees at production facilities and corporate offices. Other corporations contract out such services, but it’s rare for a company to keep chaplains on the payroll.

"The chaplains provide compassionate pastoral care and ministry to team members and their families," according to Tyson's website, "regardless of their religious or spiritual affiliation or beliefs."

Tyson recently gave money to launch the Tyson Center for Faith and Spirituality in the Workplace at the University of Arkansas, one of the first academic centers of its kind.

4. Hobby Lobby. The privately held chain of more than 450 arts and crafts stories isn't shy about its Christian orientation. "Honoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles," reads the company's mission statement. "We believe that it is by God's grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured."

The company supports a slate of Christian interests, from Oral Roberts University to the conservative Alliance Defense Fund, and is known for taking out overtly religious newspaper ads around the holidays.

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5. ServiceMaster. Never heard of this corporation? Perhaps some of the residential services companies it owns, like Terminix and American Home Shield, will ring a bell.

The company was founded in 1929 by Marion E. Wade, who "had a strong personal faith and a desire to honor God in all he did," according to ServiceMaster's website. "Translating this into the marketplace, he viewed each individual employee and customer as being made in God's image - worthy of dignity and respect."

The company, formerly public but recently taken over by a private equity firm, still consciously tries to "do the right thing in the way that employees treat customers," says Theodore Malloch, who leads Yale University's Spiritual Capital Initiative. "It's a theological statement about servant leadership - think of the picture of Christ washing the feet of his disciples."

6. Herman Miller. The Michigan-based furniture manufacturer's founders were steeped in the Reformed Protestant tradition. "It retains a lot of that in practices that revolve around a notion of respecting the dignity of the human person and a strong environmental ethic that grew out of the religious responsibility," says Yale's Malloch. Indeed, Herman Miller - perhaps most famous for its Aeron chair - prides itself on environmental philanthropy and on regularly appearing on Fortune's annual list of best companies to work for.

7. Interstate Batteries. The car battery giant has a "self-avowed religious identity and is very open in their God talk" in internal training and communication, says Lake Lambert III, author of Spirituality, Inc. Former company president Norm Miller moved to the role of chairman to allow more time to address Christian audiences. Miller talks to those "interested in how he found the truth of Christianity," the company's website says, "and how he learned to effectively apply biblical principles to create a more successful business." Interstate employs its own chaplain.

8. In-N-Out Burger. Chick-fil-A is hardly the only fast-food outfit to make its founders' religious leanings part of its recipe. Western U.S. burger chain In-N-Out has printed citations of Bible passages on cups, wrappers and other pieces of packaging since at least the late 1980s. For instance, "John 3:16" appears on the bottom of soft drink cups, a reference to the Bible passage, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Read more on In-N-Out's religious side at Eatocracy, CNN's food blog.

9. Walmart. Treat this one as an honorable mention. Lambert says the Walton family, which founded the company and still own a major stake in it, has used Christian servant leadership models in building the world's largest retailer. And the company's Arkansas roots helped sensitize it to the shopping habits of churchgoers. It helps explain why Walmart long carries the kind of Christian books that were once the exclusive province of Christian bookstores. "You don’t find those kinds of things in J.C. Penney," Lambert says. But Walmart has been so successful with such material that it's now become a business threat to Christian booksellers.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Whole Foods co-founder and CEO John Mackey is a Buddhist. Whole Foods Global Public Relations Director Kate Lowery says that Mackey has never been a Buddhist. “John does not fit into any traditional religious category,” she said in an e-mail message.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Missionaries

soundoff (2,481 Responses)
  1. Salamon Vaughner

    We have found some another office furniture on http://www.ebestofficechair.com/

    December 10, 2013 at 3:54 am |
  2. Yelena

    They forgot to add Leatherby's ice cream... and Walmart should NOT be on the list, they arent even allowed to say Merry Christmas

    August 11, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
    • plautz8

      They are allowed to say Merry Christmas in our local store. maybe it depends on the location or the store manager. They also sell Bibles and shirts with Godly messages or religious themes on them. Sam Walton was a born again Christian who started the chain and had prayer before all Board meetings and at all district manager meetings. If someone was a Buddhist or other religion they were allowed to pray to their deity. He believed in Jesus Christ but allowed other employees the freedom to practice their religion. He has died and his sons don't seem to care one way or another.

      April 15, 2014 at 9:00 pm |
  3. M.

    As an employee of Servicemaster, I can tell you that while it is true that the company and some of it's subsidiaries were founded by Christians, that faith aspect is inconsequential now. At one time, all execs were born again Christians, but that is no longer the case. Today, they worship the almighty dollar. They are owned by an equity firm and business is business today. It is all about the bottom line.

    March 3, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
    • K

      I will only work for this farce of a company until God opens another window. I worked there when it WAS a God based company and the culture was wonderful. Now, the pressure is unreal and unachievable. The turnover rate is such that the company will implode in short order! They waste no money on technology. The same computers there now, were there 20 years ago! Please remove from this list as Servicemaster and all it's subsidiaries are no longer God based, but merely being picked clean by a holding company.

      June 19, 2013 at 8:02 am |
  4. martring.com

    Visit MartRing.com where everyday is a Blackfriday. Clearnance deals from top retailers. MartRing.com is the place to find deal posted which are refreshed every hour.

    February 4, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
  5. martring

    Visit MartRing.com where everyday is a Blackfriday. Clearnance deals from top retailers. MartRing.com is
    the place to find deal posted which are refreshed every hour.

    February 1, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
  6. Peter

    Steve Posted on Coitus??? You mean, the physical act of love???It may cormoft you that, as a Vulcan, Saavik would have engaged in the Genesis logjammin under some necessity compulsively, and without joy. These unfortunate souls cannot love in the true sense of the word.

    December 15, 2012 at 6:10 am |
  7. Ana

    The ads on the TV most certainly have sotnehimg to do with it. The prescription drug epidemic too off when the ads started on TV. Do that research and see what you come up with. The drug companies have a pill for everything. Once you start targeting the opiates they will sell you sotnehimg else. Just you watch.

    December 15, 2012 at 2:46 am |
  8. Steph

    Gotta love the repulsive business practices of some of these "Christian" establishments, especially Forever 21 and Walmart. The owners of these companies love to play the Jesus card but their actions (i.e. underpaying employees, use of sweatshop labor, plagiarism of designs from designers) speak otherwise.

    By the way I am a Christian. But I refuse to support these hypocrites

    December 4, 2012 at 9:34 am |
    • givethemavoice77

      I couldn't agree with you more!

      December 20, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • Yelena

      I dont believe that walmart is a christian store at all. They are not allowed to say Merry Christmas.

      August 11, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
  9. kirk

    Hope HRR Doesnt put them ALL out of business....Well except for WAL-MART!! Could care less about that one...in FACT, i hope IT DOES PUT THEM OUT!!

    November 15, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  10. Devonte

    Visit http://www.victorylifebooks.com God is good

    October 30, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  11. Mike

    Chick-fil-a obviously has the hand of God on it because it continues to grow and expand substantially. I truly believe this so called "controversy" will do nothing but help chick-fil-a in its business. Dan Cathy said nothing more than what it is so clearly stated in God's Word

    September 28, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • d p

      nazis fit your description of chi fil a lol..

      November 8, 2012 at 1:17 am |
  12. Jim

    Walmart? Dang it's gonna be hard to avoid that one. The rest is easy.

    August 27, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
  13. MB

    Glad I have a few more to add to the "avoid" category.

    August 27, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • Mr. Jones

      You must be one of those California liberals who are trying to attack Christians in this county. I have a heavy heart for you who can not respect these kinds of good moral values. Just wait when things start going bad for you who will you turn to in your time of distress.

      August 27, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
      • poeticsinglemama

        You're insane – I cannot wait until crazy religious people like you GO AWAY! I have had much tragedy in my life, and I don't turn to some mythical creature in the sky to make me feel better!

        June 30, 2014 at 12:25 pm |
    • poeticsinglemama

      Me too!!

      June 30, 2014 at 12:25 pm |
  14. Frank

    This is all nonsense.

    August 27, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.