Religious imagery in Capitol attack top religious news of year: survey


The Christian and pagan symbolism seen in the Jan. 6 riot at the United States Capitol was the top religious story of the year, according to a survey of members of the Religion News Association.

Taliban reimpose Islamist rule in Afghanistan and US Supreme Court passes abortion laws in Mississippi and Texas, second and third respectively in the 72-year-old trade group’s annual survey of religious journalists and publishers .

And President Biden, the second Roman Catholic to hold the post, was voted “Religion Newsmaker of the Year”, beating Pope Francis, who remains arguably the world’s most prominent spiritual leader.

Other stories in the “top 10” covered a range of societal and faith-based issues. The list included the thousands of private sector and government workers who were seeking religious exemptions to COVID-19 vaccination mandates and Mr. Biden’s inauguration amid pushback from some Catholic bishops on his pro-abortion stance. .

Another top story: Gallup reported in 2021 that membership in U.S. houses of worship fell below 50% for the first time in 80 years, the polling firm has tracked the topic. Only 47% of Americans said they belonged to a church, mosque or synagogue in 2020, down from 50% two years earlier.

Religious attendance issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic ranked 7th in the association’s survey. Many congregations returned to in-person worship, but attendance remained lower than pre-2020 numbers.

Canadian Investigations of Religious Schools for Indigenous Children was voted the eighth most important story of the year. The discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves of Indigenous children in schools prompted new investigations into the organizations that ran such institutions in the United States and Canada.

Rounding out the top 10 were two stories related to the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination: One was the departure of American Bible teacher Beth Moore, who broke with the SBC and her publishing house for “sexism and misogyny” in the 14 million-member denomination, its handling of sexual abuse cases and the support of some Baptists for President Donald Trump.

The other was the election of Ed Lytton, described as a “centrist” as SBC president, ahead of more conservative candidates.

Meanwhile, Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, also a Catholic, was second in the journalists category and the Taliban were third. Pope Francis was fifth, behind Ms Moore.

Two other newsmaker contenders: Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first secretary of the American Indian Cabinet, who has launched an investigation into government and church-run boarding schools for Native children and took action to protect lands considered sacred by American Indians. And Pat Robertson, whose retirement as host of the “700 Club” capped a decades-long career of religious broadcasting and political activism.

A full list of stories considered for “most important” honors can be found at

DISCLOSURE: Mark A. Kellner is a member of the Religion News Association but did not vote in the 2021 survey.


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