Tom Gjelten

Tom Gjelten covers issues of 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 social and cultural 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. In the years that followed, he covered the wars in Central America, social and political strife in 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.

Gjelten's latest book is A Nation of Nations: A Great American Immigration Story, published in 2015. 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 new book, A Nation of Nations: A Great American Immigration Story (Simon & Schuster), recounts the impact on America of the 1965 Immigration Act, which officially opened the country's doors to immigrants of color.

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 regular panelist on the PBS program "Washington Week," and a member of the editorial board at World Affairs Journal. A graduate of the University of Minnesota, he began his professional career as a public school teacher and freelance writer.

Fifteen years after the attacks of Sept. 11, Americans have grown aware not only of the danger of terrorism but also of the reality that their nation is far less white, Christian and European than it used to be.

"Culturally, we're a country of Bollywood and bhangra and tai chi and yoga and salsa and burritos and halal and kosher," says Diana Eck, professor of comparative religion at Harvard University and author of A New Religious America.

Hundreds of Catholics have been declared saints in recent decades, but few with the acclaim accorded Mother Teresa, set to be canonized by Pope Francis on Sunday, largely in recognition of her service to the poor in India.

"When I was coming of age, she was the living saint," says the Most Rev. Robert Barron, the auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. "If you were saying, 'Who is someone today that would really embody the Christian life?' you would turn to Mother Teresa of Calcutta."

Churchgoing Americans say their preachers often speak out on hot social and political issues and occasionally back or oppose particular candidates in defiance of U.S. law prohibiting such endorsements.

(Editor's note: Both major presidential candidates this year are Protestants. Both of their running mates were raised as Catholics. Beyond that, their faith profiles are very different. We dug into the faiths of the Republican candidates below and of the Democratic ticket here.)

(Editor's note: Both major presidential candidates this year are Protestants. Both of their running mates were raised as Catholics. Beyond that, their faith profiles are very different. We dug into the faiths of the Democratic candidates below and of the Republican ticket here.)

The Jews who immigrated to America in the early 20th century brought with them their history as a persecuted people. Many were fleeing pogroms and anti-Semitic attacks in Europe, and those experiences bonded them to other groups that also faced discrimination.

Bill Campbell

In rural Kentucky, the call to be a preacher can come at an early age. Nick Wilson was born with it.

"We were always in church," he says. "Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, Bible school, revivals. That's what life was."

His father, a grandfather and two great-grandfathers were Southern Baptist preachers. So is his brother. His sister married a preacher, and Wilson intended to follow the line.

After college, he attended the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., a training ground for Baptist preachers since 1859. But his ministry plans soon ended, because no congregation was interested in ordaining him. They all wanted a family man, and Wilson didn't measure up.

"First off, I'm single. That's a problem," he says. "They really want you to be married. But then if you throw in gay, it's over with."

Wilson says he knew from the time he was six or seven that he was "different." In time, he became open about his sexuality, even taking his boyfriend to church. But in the Southern Baptist world, homosexuality is morally unacceptable, so he was disqualified from the ministry.

"The scriptural view is what's ultimate," says Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Seminary and an intellectual leader in the evangelical world. "The Apostle Paul very explicitly in 1 Corinthians says that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." [There's more from Mohler and the culture war being fought among Evangelical Christians in Tom Gjelten's Morning Edition story.]

America's culture war, waged in recent years over gender roles, sexuality and the definition of marriage, is increasingly being fought inside evangelical Christian circles. On one side are the Christians determined to resist trends in secular society that appear to conflict with biblical teaching. On the other side are the evangelicals willing to live with those trends.

For Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., the key question is "whether or not there is a binding morality to which everyone is accountable."

The global refugee crisis, political strife and economic dislocation all contributed to a worldwide deterioration of religious freedom in 2015 and an increase in "societal intolerance," according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

"At best, in most of the countries we cover, religious freedom conditions have failed to improve," says Princeton professor Robert George, the USCIRF chairman. "At worst, they've spiraled downward."

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit

Editor's note: Radovan Karadzic was one of the dominant figures of the Bosnian war, serving as president of the "Serb Republic" in Bosnia from 1992 to 1995. The International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague on Thursday found him guilty of multiple crimes, including the slaughter of about 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the town of Srebrenica. NPR's Tom Gjelten covered the war in Bosnia, and Karadzic, for years.

Given all that has happened in the last 20 years, many people will not recall the war in Bosnia. Remind us what happened.

All three Republican presidential candidates spoke before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) this week, but not necessarily because they were seeking Jewish votes. An appearance before the group may have been even more important to the candidates' evangelical Christian supporters.

"Evangelicals have been remarkably pro-Israel, both theologically and in terms of the modern State of Israel," says David Gushee, a professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University in Atlanta.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit

The religion of Islam was founded by Muhammad, the 7th century prophet whom Muslims call "the messenger of God."

They don't consider him divine, but they follow his teachings closely. Good Muslims are taught to emulate the prophet in all matters, personal, spiritual and worldly.

Perhaps no time in recent history has it been more important to do as the Prophet Muhammad did — and not as someone says he did.

With terror groups like ISIS now invoking his name, many Muslim leaders say radicals who cite the prophet to justify violence misrepresent his teachings.