Obama’s ‘olive-branch’ Cairo speech named top US religion story

By on January 1, 2010

New York
President Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo in which he pledged a new U.S. relationship with Muslim countries, has been named the top religion story for 2009 by secular journalists who cover religion in the United States.

The June speech in Egypt was seen as offering an olive branch to the Muslim world and was named the top story by more than 100 members of the Religion Newswriters Association.

The top newsmaker selected by the journalists was U.S. evangelical leader Rick Warren, who delivered the invocation at Obama’s January inauguration – a move for which Obama was criticised by some groups due to Warren’s stated opposition to same-sex marriage.

After the Cairo speech, other stories in the RNA’s top 10 were:

2. The national debate within the United States about health care reform and the role the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other faith groups played in the debate, particularly in efforts to limit abortions.

3. The continued debate in the United States about the relationship between Islamic faith and terrorism due to the devout Muslim faith of the soldier charged with the mass killings at Fort Hood  military base in Texas in November.

4. The May killing of Dr George Tiller, a physician providing abortions in the United States, in a Wichita, Kansas, Lutheran church by a man described as being delusional and said to profess radical religious beliefs.

5. The criticism of Mormons in California by gay rights supporters because of their successful efforts in the November 2008 election to pass a referendum outlawing same-sex marriage.

Other stories in the RNA top 10 included the decision, after years of debate, by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to ordain homosexual clergy who are in committed monogamous relationships, and the ongoing controversies with the Episcopal (Anglican) Church over the issue of gay clergy, with the national church voting to end its moratorium on installing openly homosexual bishops.

The poll of active RNA members was conducted in an online ballot between December 11 and 14.

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