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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. Wendy

    Hearing this makes me smile...big companies who loves God..I think that is why they are so blessed. I love in and out and knowing this makes me love it even more!!!!!

    February 8, 2011 at 4:36 am |
  2. Adam

    Thank you for giving me a checklist of companies not to do business with. Much appreciated.

    February 8, 2011 at 4:29 am |
  3. Justina

    Americans have become the most air-headed species on earth by ranting "Do not judge" out of context all the time.

    February 8, 2011 at 4:15 am |
  4. Justina

    Actually everything good and noble and useful in America thus the world came from Christians. Atheistic secularists are making a trashy society out of the great nation Christians had built.

    February 8, 2011 at 3:55 am |
    • Amy

      Oh yeah, Justina.. No other religions brought anything good to the table.

      February 8, 2011 at 6:54 am |
    • Proof

      1) America was founded by deists (men who believed in an all-powerful creator but not the Christian god). Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Thomas Paine, and several others: the men who constructed and wrote the laws and principles upon which our democracy are founded, were not Christian and purposefully set up the United States as a secular government because they understood all too well the dangers of a "Christian nation". So all that is good about America did not come from Christians and, in fact, was specifically designed to avoid the pitfalls of theocratic single-mindedness. Freedom of religion is, by its very nature, anti-Christian as it goes against the first commandment. The founding fathers understood that to truly have a free society, government had to be separated from the shackles of monotheism. You can yell that America is a Christian nation until you are blue in the face... it will never make it true.

      2) A good portion of the great things given to the world actually came from the Muslims. Go look up the Library of Alexandria, the end of the Crusades, and the Italian Renaissance. Our world as we know it wouldn't be here if it weren't for Muslims preserving the ancient texts and wisdom that Europeans had destroyed and then brought back with them during the Crusades.

      3) Americans have "become air-headed" because they value belief over logic, opinion over fact, and sloth over hard work. It's laziness: intellectual and otherwise. We've had everything handed to us so we have no drive to think for ourselves, work harder, and achieve even greater things. We would rather believe in the myth of our own greatness than recognize that the rest of the world is blowing by us. They're smarter than us by every conceivable measure, they manufacture more than us, and all of the great inventions that used to come out of this country are all being made elsewhere. Thankfully we still have a large immigrant population who still chase the American dream and work their butts off to become the doctors, inventors, and scientists we will need to continue to make this country (and, by extension, our world) a better place.

      February 8, 2011 at 10:16 am |
  5. CJ

    Listen, I'm gay, and there is nothing that could stop me from eating at Chick-fila! Just like I should have the right to marry who I want, no matter gender, I respect the right of Chick-fila(as a private company) to operate their company with faith – based ideals; and I also respect that they have the right to fund whatever group they want. When people start talking about private citizens not being able to make their own decisions, I get worried. We live in a democracy people, and disagreement or discussion is apart of any healthy democratic society. Is anyone being tortured or murdered because a company decides to fund an anti-gay organization? I might not like that, but the fact is- what Chick-fila does is none of my business. As long as they are providing safe food, and following fair business practices- I am happy.

    February 8, 2011 at 3:53 am |
    • AmazingSteve

      There are lots of places you can go to get a chicken sandwich. Why would you choose the one that actively opposes your life-style, and the life-style of so many others, for basically no reason? You're not infringing on any of these companies' freedoms when you refuse to spend money there. They're making a choice when they decide to support a cause so utterly repugnant and illogical, and it is our freedom to make this choice known, and choose where we would like to spend our money.

      February 9, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
  6. David K

    Tyson is one of the largest employers of illegal aliens in the USA. They have in the past been busted paying immigrant smugglers to supply their factories. I don't care if they're "religious." They're still a vile anti-American worker company.

    February 8, 2011 at 3:40 am |
  7. LEB

    I don't buy Tyson meats because they are guilty of unethical meat production, and don't shop at Walmart because they are guilty of gender discrimination and treating their employees poorly. Never been to an In-n-Out Burger, or even seen one. Guess I'll have to break my Chik-Fil-A addiction, too. They probably don't want my sin-tainted atheist dollars.

    February 8, 2011 at 3:11 am |
  8. krozareq

    A lot of these companies don't even offer health coverage for the majority of their employees. Companies that don't offer health coverage are thieves. They steal from those who do pay health insurance because our premiums go to keep their employees and families healthy. It means nothing to claim you're a Christian and spout Bible versus. Even Jesus was against dogma and labels. If you followed the way of peace, love, compassion, respect, and responsibility; then you believe in him.

    February 8, 2011 at 3:00 am |
  9. Free Thinker

    Great... More stores to avoid when possible if there is a better alternative (sometimes there just isn't). Stuffing religion down employees' throats is intensely offensive and morally wrong. Keep the list coming; we need to know this stuff. Secularism is the only acceptable values system that has any place in the corporate workplace.

    February 8, 2011 at 2:52 am |
    • CJ

      @ Free Thinker. I can't believe I'm actually defending these companies, but, who said they were stuffing religion down the throats of their employees? I am an employee of Target, and they have funded anti gay organizations before, but they have never stuffed religion down my throat.

      February 8, 2011 at 4:00 am |
    • AmazingSteve

      Okay freethinker, you seem to be someone more or less from my side of the argument that's wrong. Please go away, you're not helping us.

      Companies are allowed to fund whoever they want and run their business on whatever silly principles they want, but we're allowed to know what they're doing, and make our decisions accordingly. If you don't like that a company incorporates religious nonsense into it's policies, that's tough; you don't get to tell them how to operate. What you are allowed to do is stop frequenting that company, since you probably don't feel comfortable funding such silliness.

      Once again, until you understand the differences here, please go away. You're only hurting your own cause.

      February 9, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
  10. Joe

    how out of your mind do you have to be, to be opposed to someone giving someone else food

    February 8, 2011 at 2:43 am |
  11. Andrea M

    How did you guys leave out Forever 21?! Way bigger company than Hobby Lobby or In-N-Out Burger! Does that stop me from shopping there? Not in your life! It's not like broke yet fashion conscious 20-somethings have much of a choice when they're not in a city that has an H&M.I'd rather throw money at a christian company with slightly questionable practices than buy ugly clothes for more at some other store. Religion is waaaay down on my list of priorities in life and fashion (as bad as it may sound to you guys but as someone who requires design and fashion to consider life worth living ever since childhood) is waaaaay up there. That sait, I prefer skipping Hobby Lobby for my sewing and design needs but the main reason is because I want to be able to buy fabric 7 days a week, including sunday.

    February 8, 2011 at 2:21 am |
  12. G. R.R.

    Skip Hobby Lobby. Nearly their entire store is just a front for Chinese goods. Far more than Target or Walmart. And the Green family will fund all of the pro America type groups (borderline birch and others being radical focus on the family ), while only the flowers are from America. SAD, Sad, sad.

    February 8, 2011 at 2:06 am |
    • Andrea M

      Welcome to the arts and crafts world. You are a fool if you think the little bits and bobs that make up craft supplies could possibly be made in America. Of course zippers and buttons are made in China! Go check the tags on your clothing and notice how (unless you're wearing American Apparel) it's all made in 3rd world countries of 3rd world components. You think those components are made somewhere else just because they're packaged individually?! All craft stores (with the exception of high-end fabric stores which typically carry a lot of EU made materials) carry almost exclusively Chinese goods. The American part comes from the hands of individuals in this country who lovingly design and assemble their own work.

      February 8, 2011 at 2:28 am |
  13. JakeAZ

    Great, thanks! i now know who to boycott.

    February 8, 2011 at 2:05 am |
  14. Ross

    im sure many do but i just wish EVERYBODY here could know the true Jesus...I wish I could know Him better...it hurts a little at first...to know how short of His love we have fallen....but what is so awesome about him is that his atonement was so total that it can even atone for the hateful comments that have been posted here...and whats even MORE amazing is that His atonement can atone for MY sins....if we could just see one glimpse of his heart we would all lay down all of this human "intelligence" and say....I'm so sorry...please show me the right way. May Christ touch everybody here 🙂

    February 8, 2011 at 2:00 am |
    • JohninVegas

      The true Jesus (if he even existed) was only one of many Jews who hated the Roman occupation. He saw himself as the leader of an uprising to rid their world of Roman Order and bring about the new order of God's kingdom on earth; the true Messiah. The Romans, ever wary of the "Messiah Fever" that was prevalent at the time, recognized Jesus as just another zealot and immediately took him out and put him down in the same manner as all the other Messiah wannabees. Love, peace and salvation had nothing to do with it. He was all all about war and world domination by the Jewish God. Wars between nations isn't pretty now nor was it pretty 2,000 years ago. It wasn't until many years after Jesus' death that St. Paul and others, who never even met Jesus, elevated him to the man-god legend he is today. When you study world history and archeology using books found in a library instead of a church gift shop, a completely different picture develops. It even makes sense.

      February 8, 2011 at 6:42 am |
  15. Sam

    As a former customer, I found American Home Shield had the worst customer service I had *ever* experienced in my life. Their "service" representatives laughed at me, hung up on me, and used every excuse in the (unholy) book to weasel out of paying for repairs. I am flabbergasted to read the claim that this company supposedly views every "customer as being made in God's image – worthy of dignity and respect." Such a joke.

    February 8, 2011 at 1:52 am |
  16. theoldpublican

    It doesn't matter what I think or what anyone thinks, but it does matter what God thinks. Find a bible (God's word) and read Matthew chapter 24 and II Timothy chapter three. You can laugh and scoff at God or His word, but that doesn't and will never change the fact that God is God and His word is true. If God is not your authority, then who is? Yourself? Are you willing to gamble with where you will spend eternity by living your life according to what you think is right or wrong? I choose to believe what God says: therefore, I have nothing to loose if I'm wrong, but you have everything to loose if you're wrong.

    February 8, 2011 at 1:51 am |
    • Magic

      theoldpublican,

      You are still gambling. What if you have chosen the wrong god?

      Look up Pascal's Wager and its fallacies... a very old and refuted bet.

      February 8, 2011 at 2:09 am |
    • joe

      Ya, you've wasted every sunday and likely been a d!ck throughout life.

      February 8, 2011 at 2:17 am |
    • Andrea M

      @Magic
      Aww, but I LIKE Pascal's wager! It makes me feel all warm and cuddly even if it is sketchy. Besides if I switch to the atheist team, I will NEVER hear the end of it from my atheist boyfriend. I'll take being ridiculed for questionable beliefs rather than the "tihihihi, you don't believe" chant of giddyness, thanks.

      February 8, 2011 at 2:32 am |
    • LEB

      You're gambling that your god is real and all the others are false. You're going to be in trouble if Zeus and the Grecian pantheon of gods are the ones that are really in control. Get ready for an eternity in Hades.

      February 8, 2011 at 3:08 am |
    • ssolilrose

      And in my belief, you are the one gambling by worshiping only the God, but ignoring the Goddess.

      February 8, 2011 at 3:10 am |
  17. Claire

    Worst part about Hobby Lobby is actually that they close on Sundays. And sell Jesus-themed MINTS.

    February 8, 2011 at 1:29 am |
    • Correy

      Claire you made me laugh out loud. And yes, it's true. I saw these mints at Christmas. What's also ironic about Hobby Lobby is that it's frequented by a HUGE part of the gay community, so I am wondering if, though Christian, if Hobby Lobby is pro gay. If so, awesome. If not, I won't be shopping there anymore. And I have stopped eating at Chick Fil A.

      My daughter's high school in Amarillo, TX has successfully voted to keep Chick Fil A from sponsoring cheerleading events. So, kudos to the cheerleaders in Amarillo, TX!

      February 8, 2011 at 2:28 am |
    • Family values

      Thank you! I think all stores except pharmacy's should close on Sundays to remember and enjoy the families, whether traditional or blended, straight or gay, that they work all week for to support. I'm all for bringing back "blue laws". Lets spend some time together and reflect on our week and stop spending on unnecessary items!!!!

      February 8, 2011 at 3:30 am |
  18. Ian

    Good to know where not to shop.

    February 8, 2011 at 1:21 am |
    • JBL

      @ Ian
      See post directed @ Joe.
      Not shopping somewhere because it has a religious background is no different than not shopping somewhere because it has atheist owners, or because it is run by women, or gays, or African Americans, or Mexicans, or Jews or.... Get my Drift? It is your right, but that doesn't make it any better. If they were actively preaching to you at these places then yeah, I get your point for sure. But they are not. Other than some tiny letters on the bottom of a cup which you can barely find if you try, they do not even make an attempt to push their beliefs on you.

      February 8, 2011 at 3:09 am |
  19. Jay In Florida

    CNN Absolutely hates anything Christian in America.

    February 8, 2011 at 1:20 am |
    • Carson

      You do realize that CNN and other media venus look to see where people are venturing. With your ignorant reply you miss the point that poeple have been clicking on the story and prove more and more than your type will make an issue out of anything. There was nothing negative in the article where you could even come up with your farce. If anything, it gives you a new soap box to 'preach' you lies about...meaning there are others who will spread the lies as well.

      February 8, 2011 at 1:56 am |
    • joe

      It's good to know which companies I won't support in the future. I don't need to be "saved" while eating a burger.

      February 8, 2011 at 2:16 am |
    • pflatman

      I assume that includes you, oh exalted saint.

      February 8, 2011 at 2:20 am |
    • JBL

      @ Joe
      Its too bad that you will miss out on some great food (In-N-Out especially), just because you disapprove of other people exercising their right to religious freedom. None of these companies preach to you while eating or shopping, and your refusing to give your business solely because they have a religious background, while it is your right, simple exposes your unfounded bigotry. Have a nice day. 🙂

      February 8, 2011 at 3:03 am |
    • LEB

      Pointing out which companies that have founded some of their practices on Christianity doesn't mean that anyone at CNN hates Christianity. CNN has also been reporting a lot on the events in Egypt. So does CNN therefore hate Muslims?

      February 8, 2011 at 3:07 am |
  20. Joe

    I still question the morales of a company whose name looks like "chick filla"

    February 8, 2011 at 12:43 am |
    • Glue

      Great job ! I wish there was a like button on this website.

      February 8, 2011 at 3:25 am |
    • Dave

      Since I don't frequent any of these companies, I know now not to start. Maybe their slogans should be " Do unto customers and employees as you'd do unto yourself. Maybe pay better wages and for the food business stop serving unhealthy food and instead of printing bible passages they should just write "Please throw your fast food containers and cups in the garbage. you're messing up gods great creation".

      February 8, 2011 at 3:44 am |
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About this blog

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.