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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.

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.

U.S. evangelicals, generally supportive of President Trump, are breaking sharply with him over his planned Syria pullout, saying the move will leave Syrian Christians vulnerable to attack.

Among the groups criticizing Trump's Syria plan is the Family Research Council, a conservative evangelical organization with a mission of advancing "faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a Christian worldview." In the past, the group has actively supported Christians overseas who face persecution.

The membership of the incoming U.S. Congress is somewhat less religious and more diverse than that of the preceding Congress, though the changes are almost entirely on the Democratic side.

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.

Americans in 2018 got an overdose of stories about marital unfaithfulness. President Donald Trump was accused of making hush payments to at least two women with whom he allegedly had affairs, and the #MeToo movement highlighted sexual misconduct at all layers of U.S. society.

For conservative Christians, such stories were especially disturbing.

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Given the rivalries and violence that divide the global community today, it is hard to imagine that on December 10, 1948, the nations of the world approved, almost unanimously, a detailed list of fundamental rights that every human on the planet should enjoy.

Christians who are killed while on a mission to spread the Gospel are often considered martyrs and treated as heroes of the faith.

But there has been little celebration for John Allen Chau, the 26-year-old American missionary who was killed by indigenous people this month after sneaking onto North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal.

Over many thousands of years, our understanding of the world has advanced exponentially. But our sense of mystery remains, and we still seek assurances that science and reason cannot provide.

Elaine Pagels opens her new book with the question, "Why is religion still around in the twenty-first century?" As a distinguished scholar of Christianity, she obviously knows some academic explanations, but in Why Religion? A Personal Story she suggests a simpler, more poignant answer: It's because we suffer and need help.

Only about 200 people typically worship each Sunday at the Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, N.C., but as many as 40,000 others follow the service via Facebook livestream.

Anti-Semitism in its rawest form motivated the Oct. 27 massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. The detectives who investigated the killing reported that the gunman, once in custody, told officers that he "wanted all Jews to die."

In his initial reaction to the shooting, President Trump said, "It looks definitely like it's an anti-Semitic crime." But the president seemed surprised it had happened, saying it was "something you wouldn't believe could still be going on."

Updated 1:40 p.m. ET

Matthew Shepard, the young gay man brutally killed on a chilly night in Wyoming 20 years ago this month, was finally laid to rest at Washington National Cathedral on Friday. A reflective, music-filled service offered stark contrast to the anti-gay protests that marred his funeral two decades ago.

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Pope Francis, whose humility and warmth made him highly popular among U.S. Catholics and non-Catholics alike, is now rated no more favorably than his somewhat aloof predecessor, Pope Benedict.

The uproar over clergy sex abuse in the Catholic church is no longer just about sex abuse. It now touches on Catholic teaching about sexuality in general and even on Pope Francis himself, his agenda, and the future of his papacy.

When a Pennsylvania grand jury last month reported that more than 300 priests had molested more than a thousand children across six dioceses under investigation, it became clear that the cases were not isolated incidents. The problem of abusive priests and the bishops who cover up for them is systemic across the whole church.

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Updated at 9 p.m. ET

After weeks of relative silence, Pope Francis has agreed to meet a delegation of U.S. bishops and cardinals to discuss the Vatican response to the clergy abuse crisis.

Among the potential victims of the Catholic clergy abuse crisis is one whose roots date to the early years of Christianity: the Catholic canon law system.

Each new revelation that a priest has molested a child and gone unpunished by his bishop has brought charges that part of the problem may be canonical procedures that fail to ensure justice for the victim.

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A group of Catholics empowered to advise U.S. bishops on their handling of clergy sex abuse is accusing the bishops of "a loss of moral leadership" and recommending that lay Catholics like themselves should henceforth be responsible for investigating clergy misconduct.

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Sixteen years after an investigation in Boston highlighted the dimensions of the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic priesthood, the financial and reputational cost to the Catholic church continues to grow.

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