2011 Top 10 Religion Stories of the Year
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Posted by: Debra Mason
For Immediate Release
Dec. 14, 2011
For information contact Debra L. Mason
Faith Response to Osama bin Laden’s Death
Voted No. 1 Religion Story of the Year
COLUMBIA, MO— The death of Osama bin Laden—which
spurred discussions among people of faith on issues of forgiveness, peace,
justice and retribution was voted the No. 1 Religion Story of 2011 by the
nation’s leading religion journalists.
The 2011 survey of Religion
Newswriters Association (RNA) members marks the 30th year the
professional organization of religion beat specialists has conducted the poll.
Faith-based groups reacted to the terrorist
leader’s death with renewed sympathy for victims’ families, scriptural
citations justifying the demise of evil, and hopeful prayers for peace among
Earlier in the year, New York
U.S. Rep. Peter King, (R-N.Y), chaired a series of controversial hearings in
the House alleging radicalization among U.S. Muslims. Meanwhile, U.S. Senate
hearings centered on crimes against Muslims. The hearings were voted the No. 2
religion story of 2011.
The complete Top 10 Religion
Stories of 2011, in order from first to tenth are:
1. The death of
Osama bin Laden spurs discussions among people of faith on issues of forgiveness, peace,
justice and retribution.
congressional hearings are held on the civil rights of American Muslims. In the
House hearings focus on alleged radicalism and in the Senate on crimes reported
Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City. Mo. is charged with failure to report the
suspected abuse of a child, becoming the first active bishop in the country to
face criminal prosecution in such a case.
4. The Catholic
Church introduces a new translation of the Roman Missal throughout the
English–speaking world, making the first significant change to a liturgy since
Church (USA) allows local option on ordination of partnered gay people. Church
defections over the issue continue among mainline Presbyterians, Lutherans, and
6. Pope John
Paul II is beatified—the last step before sainthood—in a May ceremony attended
by more than million people in Rome.
evangelist Harold Camping attracts attention with his predictions that the
world would end in May and again in October.
8. A book by
Michigan megachurch pastor Rob Bell, "Love Wins," presenting a much
less harsh picture of hell than is traditional, stirs discussion in evangelical
circles. Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention rebut it.
9. The Personhood
Initiative, designed to outlaw abortion by declaring a fetus a person, fails on
Election Day in Mississippi, but advocates plan to try in other states.
Meanwhile, reports show the number of restrictions adopted throughout the
country against abortion during the year are far more than in any previous
translations make news, with celebrations of the 400th anniversary of the King
James Version; criticism, notably by Southern Baptists, about gender usage in
the newest New International Version; and completion of the Common English
In recent years,
RNA has named a Religion Newsmaker of the year. In the 2011 vote, however,
three of the people on the five-person ballot comprised a virtual three-way
tie, with less than one vote separating each of them.
Harold Camping, a
radio evangelist whose end-of-world predictions won followers and scoffers, had
the most votes for newsmaker, with Pope Benedict XVI just one point behind. The
Pope was cited for his efforts to improve Jewish relations, beatify John Paul
II, and his triumphal return to his German homeland.
Less than one
vote behind the pope was Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whose prayer service, and advertisements
raised religious issues to the forefront during the pre-primary season of the
Because no one individual
stood out in the voting, RNA is not naming a 2011 Religion Newsmaker of the
The Top 10 results are based on
an online survey of more then 300 journalists with a response rate near 30
percent. Voting was conducted online from Dec. 10-13, 2011.
The Religion Newswriters
Association is the world’s premier association dedicated to helping journalists
write about religion with balance, accuracy and insight. Founded in 1949, the
association is headquartered at the Missouri School of Journalism. For more
information about RNA and its resources, visit http://www.RNA.org.
We sometimes get requests for the entire ballot. The remaining
religion stories, ranked 11 through 22, are listed below:
religious services, many of them interfaith, mark the 10th anniversary of the
9/11 attacks with some preachers noting lectionary readings on forgiveness.
Majority-Christian Southern Sudan achieves its independence from Northern Sudan
after years of trying. Worldwide church leaders, especially in Africa,
receive some credit for the outcome and they pledge continued support to the
13. Faith groups
play a leading role in disaster response after tornadoes in Alabama and
Missouri, and after earthquakes, tsunami and floods in Japan, New Zealand and
irreverent satire "The Book of Mormon," about a pair of non-traditional
missionaries to Uganda, wins nine Tony awards on Broadway, including best
Fundamentalist Mormon leader Warren Jeffs is sentenced to life
imprisonment in a high–profile trial for sexually assaulting teen-age girls.
16. Hopes for an
end to Pakistan's blasphemy law are dashed when two leading advocates of
religious conciliation, Salman Taseer and Shahbazz Bhatti, are assassinated two
Buddhist monks and one nun burn themselves to death during the year in protest
of China's crackdown on Tibet, which United Nations members protest in a
resolution against China.
18. The sale of
the famed Crystal Cathedral for $57.5 million to the Roman Catholic Diocese of
Orange County, Calif., is approved by bankruptcy court. Earlier, founder Robert
Schuller is removed as a voting member of the church's board.
Benedict XVI strengthens relations with Jews by declaring Jews as a whole were
not collectively responsible for Christ's death.
20. The U.S.
Supreme Court, in a key church-state case, rejects a challenge to an Arizona
tuition-credit program criticized for benefiting religious institutions. The
court also hears arguments in a Michigan landmark case regarding church
exemptions to certain federal employment laws.
religious leaders lobby Washington politicians on behalf of the poor during the
summer budget process. A dozen are arrested, but none is prosecuted.
22. Death claims
two evangelical icons, Pentecostal David Wilkerson, 79 (in a car accident in
Texas) and Anglican John R.W. Stott, 90 (in London).