Controversy over building plans for an Islamic community center and mosque near New York's ground zero ignited a national debate about religious freedom that kept the story in the news for months.
The story was recently voted the No. 1 religion story of 2010 in the annual Top 10 Religion News Stories of the Year poll for members of the Religion Newswriters Association, based in Columbia, Mo. The Islamic center's leading proponent, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, was voted the 2010 Religion Newsmaker of the Year.
As newsmaker of the year, Rauf beat out Pope Benedict XVI and Sarah Palin, who argued in her second best-selling book that candidates for office should take a public Christian stand.
Here are the Top 10 Religion Stories of 2010:
1. A proposal to build an Islamic center and mosque near ground zero leads to a national debate on religious freedom as the 9/11 anniversary approaches. Public opinion and outcry over the mosque reached a peak when a pastor of a small Florida church threatened to burn a Quran in protest, a bravado that fueled fears of international backlash against the United States until the pastor backed down.
2. The catastrophic earthquake in Haiti sparks international relief efforts from varied faith-based groups. Efforts from Idaho Southern Baptists lead to child-smuggling accusations, and leader Laura Silsby is imprisoned for four months.
3. Pope Benedict XVI is accused of delaying church action against pedophile priests in the U.S. and other countries while he led the Vatican office in charge of discipline from 1981 to 2005; several bishops resign.
4. The rise of the tea party movement. Mormon Glenn Beck pushes a Washington rally. Midterm election results are mixed. A tea party candidate who loses, Delaware candidate Christine O'Donnell, was pilloried for responding to critics with an ad that stated, "I am not a witch."
5. President Obama signs the health care reform bill for which many faith-based groups labored. Catholic bishops voice a strong opposition to the bill because of the belief that it provides funding for abortions.
6. The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) votes for the fourth time to lift the ban on non-celibate gay clergy and succeeds. The Episcopal Church is asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury to take a lesser role in the Anglican Communion after a lesbian assistant bishop is ordained.
7. Churches and ministries continue to struggle during the economic slump: the Crystal Cathedral declares bankruptcy; the Lutheran publishing house, Augsburg Fortress, drops its pension plan; Focus on the Family cuts 110 employees; and the Seventh-day Adventist publishing arm removes top executives.
8. Several suicides are attributed to bullying of homosexual students, including a New Jersey college student whose roommate allegedly video taped him during a sexual encounter. Several religious voices take part in the “It Gets Better” YouTube video project to encourage gay youth not to succumb to depression or suicide.
9. The U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey released by the Pew Forum reveals that atheists, agnostics, Jews and Mormons are the most knowledgeable when it comes to general religion questions.
10. The U.S. Supreme Court convenes for the first time ever without a Protestant member (six Catholics and three Jews). The court hears arguments in the case of the Kansas church that loudly protests at the funerals of servicemen; the decision is expected in spring 2011.
-- Religion Newswriters Association
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