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. Soljagurl

    I'd like to play the BS card on Wal~Mart.... Simply because I have never met Sam Walton and I worked for the company long after he died. Since the "Children" took over, I know Mr. Walton has to be rolling in his grave. The company has gone SOUTH FOR THE WINTER....WAAAAAYYYYYY SOUTH. The benefits aren't what they used to be and FAITHY is the article, well they have always been "family oriented", HA! You dont sell Daisy Duke shorts to a 3 yo, I'm sorry. How can you claim to be faithful to GOD, when you can't be faithful to your employees who have been faithful to you for years? WALTON FAMILY, please go back to the "Family oriented" ways. Take away the UNIFORMS!! Let the family dress comfortably in their own way. GET IT TOGETHER WALMART.....

    February 8, 2011 at 7:57 am |
  2. Robin Bray

    And some of these are the worst offenders for hiring illegal immigrant workers. What does that say about their faith and belief systems?

    February 8, 2011 at 7:54 am |
  3. Greg

    Tyson should pratice a little of their religion, instead of breaking the law and hiring illegal aliens to save money on labor.

    February 8, 2011 at 7:52 am |
  4. Benster

    Religion is a man made product that has been used in the past to control the masses through fear and intimidation. Religion was oroigianlly created by man as steps to get closer to God. Jesus Christ, spoke against traditional religion and promoted spirituality. He worked to heal people's fears of being separated from God. He spoke the message of the Kingdom being at hand and within each and every person. Jesus taught people to love and never promoted fearful ideas, such as suffering in an eternal Hell. Man has twisted Gods word for his own use, Jihads, the Inquisitions, the Crusades, these were ordered by man not God. Jesus was given to us by God to show us the way of life, to help and heal each other, to basically love one another as the brothers and sisters that we are. Man is its own enemy, we are the cause of our wars, pain and suffering. Most of these comapanies promote Jesus Christ 's message by giving and caring about people and following and honering Jesus's message. think about this, you may or may not believe in God, but even if you do not, we are still born from the same, it took God createing Adam and Eve the first male and female that created us to populat the worls ,or if you believe in evolution, creationism whatever, it still took a man and women to create the human race, so we are all related genetically. How can there be so much hatred for one another? We are of the same.

    February 8, 2011 at 7:51 am |
    • BGJ

      Wow, Benster,

      You must have had a whole semester of religious study at community college. Have an original thought and then post.

      February 8, 2011 at 8:04 am |
  5. Eric

    Hmm... knew about a few of those. Didn't know about Tyson but doesn't really matter because I don't eat their hormone laced hybrid bird that grows so fast it can't take more than a couple steps before falling down chicken anyways.

    February 8, 2011 at 7:49 am |
  6. Reality

    Again since the topic is about religion and businesses, one must list Mormonism as a business. It fronts as a religion that uses forced donations and "volunteers" to subsidize and advertise its businesses.

    February 8, 2011 at 7:47 am |
  7. cjonlline

    When all else fails, read the instructions. Just get out the Bible, and read it. The failure of the churches to teach and practice the Bible in no way diminishes its vital importance.

    February 8, 2011 at 7:46 am |
  8. Josh

    BTW, if one was a true Christian, then one would give food to the hungry, without regard to their beliefs or their opinions on social issues.

    All Chick-fil-A did, was give food to whom they felt were in need. That is not anti-gay, nor anti-anything but hunger.

    February 8, 2011 at 7:45 am |
  9. DanFromHades

    I STILL think it's funny people were mad at Michael Vick for torturing dogs...but eating tortured animals is fine.

    February 8, 2011 at 7:41 am |
  10. tall girl

    oh my goodness! Some very strong opinions on this thread! I'm seeing the purpose or feeling the love in my fellow Christians comments. BUT let me just say (as a Christian) that I appreciated the article. Yes it is always sad when the actions of employees of Christian orgs (dry ice reference) don't reflect the love Christ, but what a joy to know that this is the very reason we need Christ who "came not to condemn the world but to save it"... "for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God". Sweet freedom!

    February 8, 2011 at 7:39 am |
    • tall girl

      correction *not* feeling the love. Doh.

      February 8, 2011 at 7:41 am |
  11. Tyson Tortures

    You want to see how "Christian" Tyson Foods is? Take a look at this video:

    February 8, 2011 at 7:39 am |
  12. Tyson Tortures

    You want to see how "Christian" Tyson Foods is? Take a look at this video:

    February 8, 2011 at 7:39 am |
  13. huh.

    Tyson employees were busted a few years ago torturing and stomping their chickens for fun. Dry ice shoved the anus causes these animals to explode.
    Is this Christian behavior???????

    February 8, 2011 at 7:19 am |
    • Lelio

      Again I have to ask if you ues the same brush to tar other groups. What group do you belong to? If I find an example of people within your group acting in a disturbing manner, then what blame should I throw at you?

      February 8, 2011 at 7:21 am |
  14. Franklin

    Yes! This is what we need! List these Christian businesses so we can boycott them. m Better yet, send stormtroopers to keep anyone out of them! We'll break their windows on a preassigned night! Because they are so intolerant! Bring them out to us so that we may know them!

    February 8, 2011 at 7:18 am |
    • Jennifer Beadle

      There are Christians and there are christians. There are the ones who go to church and practice their faith to the best of their ability and then there are the ones in name only, who justify everything they do with a shield of faith. So the question is do these folks have faith (you will know them by their works) or is it more of the good ole time religion that is motivated strictly by profit.

      February 8, 2011 at 7:52 am |
    • AmazingSteve

      Whoah guy, are you trying to compare people peacefully withholding their own money (which they earned, and are allowed to spend legally however they please) to acts of violence and oppression? Because that sounds like a pretty big leap to me.

      February 9, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
  15. Smooch

    Sam Walton have have been a Christian, but the Walmart I know do not behave with any type of integrity, let alone Christian values. They move into small towns and shut down family owned small business. There should be more articles on their history.

    February 8, 2011 at 7:16 am |
  16. doc

    I worked for Wal-Mart in Memphis Tn. in the mid 90's and asked for a sunday off to attend Church, and my manager told me "Wal-Mart doesn't beleave in God and if you want to go to Church find anothe job" I did.

    February 8, 2011 at 7:11 am |
  17. xd

    Fools! You Christians are being duped and used. Can you justify this as something Jesus would do?

    "Currently birds who are killed for Tyson are dumped onto conveyor belts and slammed upside down by their legs into metal shackles–a procedure that often results in broken wings and broken legs. Birds are still conscious when their throats are cut, and many are then scalded to death in defeathering tanks."

    You might want to rethink you're support for these heartless corporate money mongers

    February 8, 2011 at 7:09 am |
    • Abby

      Seriously? Now just because Tyson is identified as Christian all Christians are supporters of horrendous animal treatment? You know I bet you're right...I bet there are no Christian vegans or vegitarians. I bet they all tote guns and go to church with Sara Palin. You are so insightful.

      February 8, 2011 at 7:17 am |
    • Lelio

      Do you extend this train of judgement to businesses run by other groups or just those who are religious. Do you judge those who protect abortion rights by the businesses they run? Doubt it, but you jump at the opportunity when they are Christians.

      February 8, 2011 at 7:19 am |
  18. Everett

    "Faithy" companies? Really? Is there no limit to your arrogance and insults of people who have faith? Even the tone of the article is looking down on and questioning the veracity of the religious faith of the founders of the companies. Obviously they are not perfect people since there are no perfect people among us, but your sneers really do little to bolster your own company.

    February 8, 2011 at 7:01 am |
    • Lelio

      I have to agree. Christianity is mocked in media at every opportunity. It's quite sad that "Freedom" has come to be defined by simply changing the appropriate target of bigotry.

      February 8, 2011 at 7:17 am |
    • Pinarello

      One has to ask if this article would have been written if it were about companies that are true to their Muslim faith.

      February 8, 2011 at 7:30 am |
    • Emmitt Langley

      I agree Lelio...but wouldn't you expect this if the Bible were true?

      People of this generation are simply collecting teachers for themselves who will say whatever tickles their ears...if you want to believe Christianity is evil...then there are people who will sell you that "reality."

      February 8, 2011 at 7:31 am |
    • Sarah

      Wow, reading into things much? There was nothing wrong with this article; you're just looking to be offended.

      February 8, 2011 at 7:32 am |
  19. Aaron

    Don't forget Forever XXI, they have a bible verse on the bottom of every bag.

    February 8, 2011 at 7:01 am |
  20. Cyberclone

    I thought that I was GOOD WITHOUT GOD just because....

    February 8, 2011 at 6:48 am |
    • Paolo

      Christians have more blood on their hands than any other group. WHEN will it be over? Keep your beliefs and your dead chickens and Walmart white trash for yourselves.

      February 8, 2011 at 7:05 am |
    • Emmitt Langley

      Not true Paolo...you're lying. And that's why you failed to name specifics. The truth is more people have been killed in the names of socialism and atheism than ALL religions combined...including Islam. Mao, Stalin, Lenin, the French Revolutionaries...all atheists and all killed millions, and this all occurred recently in the history of mankind...you don't have to go back to the 12th century.

      Truth is, there is a reason these companies are successful...if you hate them because they are influenced by Christianity...aren't YOU the hate you say you're trying to eradicate?

      February 8, 2011 at 7:28 am |
    • Reality

      Some facts:(and commentary by M. White)

      The Twenty (or so) Worst Things People Have Done to Each Other:

      Rank Death Toll Cause Centuries Religions/Groups involved*

      1 63 million Second World War 20C (Christians et al and Communists vs. Christians et al, Nazi-Pagan and "Shintoists")

      2 40 million Mao Zedong (mostly famine) 20C (Communism)

      40 million Genghis Khan 13C (Shamanism or Tengriism)

      4 27 million British India (mostly famine) 19C (Anglican)

      5 25 million Fall of the Ming Dynasty 17C (Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Chinese folk religion)

      6 20 million Taiping Rebellion 19C ( Confucianism, Buddhism and Chinese folk religion vs. a form of Christianity)

      20 million Joseph Stalin and his Communists 20C

      8 19 million Mideast Slave Trade 7C-19C (Islam)

      9 17 million Timur Lenk 14C-15C

      10 16 million Atlantic Slave Trade 15C-19C (Christianity)

      11 15 million First World War 20C (Christians vs. Christians)

      15 million Conquest of the Americas 15C-19C (Christians)

      13 13 million Muslim Conquest of India 11C-18C

      14 10 million An Lushan Revolt 8C

      10 million Xin Dynasty 1C

      16 9 million Russian Civil War 20C (Christians vs Communists)

      17 8 million Fall of Rome 5C (Pagans)

      8 million Congo Free State 19C-20C (Christians)

      19 7½ million Thirty Years War 17C (Christians vs Christians)

      7½ million Fall of the Yuan Dynasty 14C

      *:" Is religion responsible for more more violent deaths than any other cause?

      A: No, of course not – unless you define religion so broadly as to be meaningless. Just take the four deadliest events of the 20th Century – Two World Wars, Red China and the Soviet Union – no religious motivation there, unless you consider every belief system to be a religion."

      Q: So, what you're saying is that religion has never killed anyone.

      A: Arrgh... You all-or-nothing people drive me crazy. There are many doc-umented examples where members of one religion try to exterminate the members of another religion. Causation is always complex, but if the only difference between two warring groups is religion, then that certainly sounds like a religious conflict to me. Is it the number one cause of mass homicide in human history? No. Of the 22 worst episodes of mass killing, maybe four were primarily religious. Is that a lot? Well, it's more than the number of wars fought over soccer, or s-ex (The Trojan and Sabine Wars don't even make the list.), but less than the number fought over land, money, glory or prestige.
      In my Index, I list 41 religious conflicts compared with 27 oppressions under "Communism", 24 under Colonialism, 2 under "Railroads" and 2 under "Scapegoats". Make of that what you will."


      February 8, 2011 at 7:40 am |
    • Rich

      Emmitt: Little threatened by those who don't believe in the all powerful invisible man in the sky? And you're the one lying.. and that's why you didn't name specifics.. typical

      February 8, 2011 at 7:49 am |
    • Greg

      Tyson is a religious company? What a joke. I wonder how that works out when they break the law time and time again. They must be trying to convert all those illegals they hire. And the EPA violations are real religious.

      February 8, 2011 at 7:58 am |
    • Good Atheist

      Trust me, you are a better person just because you don't need an adult version of Santa to tell you how to live.

      February 8, 2011 at 7:59 am |
    • saganhill

      No Emmit, you have your facts messed up. Socialism is only a recent idealogy. The notion of a god or gods has been around since the beginning of mans existance. More humans have been slaughtered in the name of a god than any other notion in the history of human existance. The whole notion of god in itself is a fascist, communist idealogy based on the ideal "do what I say in the bible or goto hel l". Democracy doesnt have this idiocy in its ideals.

      February 8, 2011 at 8:07 am |
    • TJustSaying

      Sagon or whoever you are the guy above put facts out there you put speculation. Name the wars that were fought in the name of religion. Do not worry since you hate facts let me bring up the numbers.
      So those of you claiming religion has killed more people tell us the wars and the numbers. Stop with the I believe it so it must be thinking. Unless of course you believe in a God call "Man" who you feel can never be in error present facts when you accuse religion of being the most bloodiest wars.

      Wars of science (begun or waged to support specific biological, political, economic, etc., principles)

      World War II – 72 million, including 25 million military deaths.
      World War I – 40 million total, including 9.7 million military deaths.
      Franco-Prussian war – 750,000, including 250,000 military deaths.
      Napoleanic wars – Estimated 6 million dead.
      French Revolution – 40,000 in the Revolution; probably 500,000 killed in the Vendee.
      American Revolution – estimated between 50,000 and 100,000 dead total.
      Seven years’ war – estimated 1.3 million dead, including 700,000 military deaths

      Religious Wars

      Crusades – Total deaths from 1096 to 1270 are estimated at about 1.5 million.
      Germany’s Peasants’ War – 100,000 dead.
      Hungary’s Peasants’ War – 70,000 dead.
      Thirty Years’ War – 7.5 million
      War on Terror – about 70,000 military deaths to date.

      February 8, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
    • AmazingSteve

      T – How exactly are any of those wars "in the name of science"? Imperialism and manifest destiny (both of which are tightly tied to religious thought) yes, science not so much.

      I can almost see World War II, if you count eugenics, but you'd be hard pressed to find an actual scientist that thinks eugenics is a good idea.

      February 9, 2011 at 8:54 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.