Tom Gjelten

Tom Gjelten reports on religion, faith, and belief for NPR News, a beat that encompasses such areas as the changing religious landscape in America, the formation of personal identity, the role of religion in politics, and conflict arising from religious differences. His reporting draws on his many years covering national and international news from posts in Washington and around the world.

In 1986, Gjelten became one of NPR's pioneer foreign correspondents, posted first in Latin America and then in Central Europe. Over the next decade, he covered social and political strife in Central and South America, the first Gulf War, the wars in the former Yugoslavia, and the transitions to democracy in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

His reporting from Sarajevo from 1992 to 1994 was the basis for his book Sarajevo Daily: A City and Its Newspaper Under Siege (HarperCollins), praised by the New York Times as "a chilling portrayal of a city's slow murder." He is also the author of Professionalism in War Reporting: A Correspondent's View (Carnegie Corporation) and a contributor to Crimes of War: What the Public Should Know (W. W. Norton).

After returning from his overseas assignments, Gjelten covered U.S. diplomacy and military affairs, first from the State Department and then from the Pentagon. He was reporting live from the Pentagon at the moment it was hit on September 11, 2001, and he was NPR's lead Pentagon reporter during the early war in Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq. Gjelten has also reported extensively from Cuba in recent years. His 2008 book, Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba: The Biography of a Cause (Viking), is a unique history of modern Cuba, told through the life and times of the Bacardi rum family. The New York Times selected it as a "Notable Nonfiction Book," and the Washington Post, Kansas City Star, and San Francisco Chronicle all listed it among their "Best Books of 2008." His latest book, A Nation of Nations: A Great American Immigration Story (Simon & Schuster), published in 2015, recounts the impact on America of the 1965 Immigration Act, which officially opened the country's doors to immigrants of color. He has also contributed to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and other outlets.

Since joining NPR in 1982 as labor and education reporter, Gjelten has won numerous awards for his work, including two Overseas Press Club Awards, a George Polk Award, and a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. A graduate of the University of Minnesota, he began his professional career as a public school teacher and freelance writer.

Houses of worship around the country on Friday got a presidential green light to open immediately.

"I call on governors to allow our churches and places of worship to open right now," President Trump said in remarks at the White House. "These are places that hold our society together and keep our people united," he said. "The people are demanding to go to church and synagogue and to their mosque."

Francis Collins, the evangelical Christian who as a physician and scientist directs the National Institutes of Health, has been awarded the prestigious Templeton Prize for his commitment to challenging the idea that science and religion are at odds.

Christian worship in the United States, long characterized by its adherence to tradition, appears to have been significantly altered by the coronavirus pandemic.

The coronavirus appears to have changed how Americans feel about their faith and their interest in attending their houses of worship.

Surveys suggest most people who had been attending church regularly are now following worship services online, but some former churchgoers are not bothering to tune in. Some people report their faith has deepened during this crisis. Others may be drifting away from their religious tradition.

For a story on how worship may be altered as a result of this pandemic, we'd like to hear from you.

Religious leaders in America who have had qualms in the past about taking money from the government may be relenting under financial stress. Surveys suggest that between a quarter and a half of all Christian churches in the country have applied for emergency loans under the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), with most of their applications approved for funding.

The 2016 election highlighted Donald Trump's successful courtship of white evangelicals. This year, much of the focus could be on Catholics. The presidential campaigns are fighting for votes in the Catholic-rich Midwestern states, and the presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, is himself a Catholic.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit African Americans proportionally harder, with higher infection and death rates than for any other demographic group. The global health crisis, however, may actually have strengthened their religious faith.

Updated at 7:40 p.m. ET

Religious freedom in India under the Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken "a drastic turn downward," according to the U.S. government commission that monitors conditions around the world.

A new government program that funnels taxpayer money to churches, synagogues and mosques has brought welcome relief to some financially stressed houses of worship, while leaving others — many of them serving communities of color — still struggling to survive.

A Florida pastor learned Monday that his defiance of a county ban on gatherings of more than 10 people was not something the local sheriff was willing to tolerate.

Rodney Howard-Browne, co-founder and pastor of the River at Tampa Bay Church, held worship as usual on Sunday, even encouraging his members to attend. By the next morning, a warrant had been issued for his arrest, and a few hours later he was taken into custody.

Churches across America have managed to get around bans on public gathering by moving their worship services online, but technology provides only partial solutions.

In addition to presiding at services, religious leaders are expected to provide counseling, lead prayer groups and minister personally to people with special needs. For many, that aspect of their work has never been more important, or more difficult, at a time when communities are struggling to contain the coronavirus.

Churches around the country are weighing whether to suspend worship services in response to the coronavirus, with their decisions dependent on their size, their proximity to an outbreak, and perhaps even their political leanings.

White evangelicals in the United States, the core of President Donald Trump's political base, have far more positive views of his personal conduct and character than other U.S. adults.

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Among elite U.S. universities, Harvard, Yale, Brown, and Georgetown have all admitted in recent years that at one time they benefited financially from the slave trade. But two Protestant seminaries have now gone a step further, saying that in recognition of their own connections to racism they have a Christian duty to pay reparations.

President Trump's evident desire to identify who's most "loyal" to Israel has a clear winner: U.S. evangelicals.

Not only do they outpace U.S. Jews in their support for policies that favor the Israeli government, but U.S. evangelicals have also become the fastest-growing sector of the Israeli tourism market. The developments may even be related.

Exit polls from the 2016 presidential election suggest that only 1 of 6 white evangelical voters supported Hillary Clinton. It was the worst such performance of any recent Democratic nominee.

"She never asked for their votes," says Michael Wear, who directed religious outreach efforts for Barack Obama's successful reelection campaign in 2012.

Southern Baptists, who in 1995 apologized for their past defense of slavery and in 2017 denounced white supremacy, are resolved once again to show their sensitivity to a pressing social concern. The 2019 convention in Birmingham, Ala., is focusing heavily on the problem of sexual abuse by church leaders.

The promotion of religious freedom in America, a cause that not long ago had near unanimous support on Capitol Hill, has fallen victim to the culture wars.

A high point came in 1993, when Congress overwhelmingly passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, meant to overturn a Supreme Court decision that limited Americans' right to exercise their religion freely.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has broken six years of relative silence with the release of an outspoken letter on the clergy sex abuse scandal. Benedict's analysis differs significantly from that of his successor, Pope Francis, and thus leaves the world's Catholics with contrasting papal perspectives on the greatest crisis facing Roman Catholicism today.

At a time when Americans are moving apart in their political and religious views, worshippers at White Memorial Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, N.C., have learned to avoid some subjects for the sake of maintaining congregational harmony.

"You wouldn't run up to a stove and touch a hot burner," says DeLana Anderson, a church deacon. "So, I'm certainly not going to do that here."

Updated 3:00pm E.T.

A shadow of scandal hanging over the Washington, D.C. archdiocese has been lifted with the appointment of a new archbishop, Wilton Gregory, currently leading the archdiocese of Atlanta.

For decades, the United Methodist Church has officially judged homosexual activity to be immoral, barred gays and lesbians from serving as clergy, and opposed same sex marriage.

Those conservative doctrinal positions went against prevailing cultural and social trends, at least in the United States, but they didn't split the church into rival conservative and progressive camps because church leaders rarely enforced them.

No more.

People in Cuba vote Sunday on whether to make socialism "irrevocable" on the island and establish the Cuban Communist Party officially as the "supreme guiding political force" in the state and society.

In recent weeks, debate around those propositions has been unusually intense for an island not known for democratic processes, and it has featured the growing strength of religious leaders.

Never in the history of the Roman Catholic Church has a pope ordered bishops from around the world to come together and consider how many priests abuse children sexually and how many church officials cover for the abusers. The scandal of clergy sex abuse has deep roots in church history, but church leaders have been notoriously reluctant to acknowledge it and deal with the consequences.

As the successor of St. Peter, a supreme pontiff should speak with authority. But our recent popes have seemed all too capable of questionable judgment, all too easily proven wrong, all too human.

With his opening words at this year's National Prayer Breakfast, President Trump made clear he saw the largely conservative crowd as a friendly audience, one he was eager to please.

"I will never let you down," he said. "I can say that. Never."

In his first appearance at the event in 2017, Trump promised to get rid of the Johnson Amendment, a cause popular among those Christians who resent the law's restriction of political speech by pastors. The law is still on the books, and Trump did not repeat the promise this year.

Religious conservatives have rarely faced much competition in the political realm from faith-based groups on the left.

The provocations of President Trump may finally be changing that.

Nearly 40 years after some prominent evangelical Christians organized a Moral Majority movement to promote a conservative political agenda, a comparable effort by liberal religious leaders is coalescing in support of immigrant rights, universal health care, LGBTQ rights and racial justice.

A government job probably pays better and is more secure than one in the private sector, but for many federal workers, it hardly assures a good income.

The 800,000 federal workers who aren't being paid because of the partial government shutdown include many who struggle to make ends meet even during ordinary times.

The Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, came into being in 1845 as the church of Southern slaveholders.

Now, 173 years later, Southern Baptist leaders are not just acknowledging their dark history; they are documenting it, as if by telling the story in wrenching detail, they may finally be freed of its taint.

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