Mosque controversy the religion story of 2010

The national association of religion journalists, a group I belonged to for many years, has just named the top 10 religion stories of the year.

Can you guess what was number one?

The members of the Religion Newswriters Association chose the “Ground Zero mosque” controversy. I think it’s a reasonable choice. The debate over the proposed Islamic center raised all sorts of questions about Islam’s place in the U.S., almost a decade after 9/11. Obviously, there is a lot of work to be done.

But I don’t get Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the religious figure behind the Islamic center, being voted religion newsmaker of the year. He hardly said a word until the controversy was white hot. He has done a few TV interviews since, but has still stayed largely out of the limelight.

If you’re talking about newsmakers — people who make the news — I would have chosen the vocal opponents of the Islamic center before the reserved imam.

The other top stories?

Number two was faith-based relief efforts after the earthquake in Haiti.

Number three was the Catholic Church’s sex-abuse problems exploding in Ireland and Germany and the pope’s possible role in past decisions made and not made.

Four? Religious voices in the Tea Party movement.

Five: The religious divide over health care reform.

The rest of the top 10: Mainline Protestants continuing to duke it out over sexuality; the recession’s effects on religious life; bullying; Americans’ poor performance on a survey of religious knowledge; and the newly Protestant-free U.S. Supreme Court.

Gary Stern

Gary Stern covered education in the Lower Hudson Valley for several years during the early 1990s. Now's he back on the beat. He believes that schools are one of the main reasons that people live around here and that educational issues -- from curriculum to financing -- are among the most challenging things that journalists can write about. He continues to be amazed by the complexity of educational jargon. Gary got his B.A. at SUNY Buffalo and his M.A. from the University of Missouri Journalism School (where his master's thesis was about the best ways to cover education). He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who attend public schools.