What will 2019 bring to the faith beat?

Ambassador Sam Brownback releases the 2017 religious freedom report. (U.S. Department of State via Creative Commons)

One year ago, ReligionLink explored stories to follow in 2018, highlighting the potential for major developments related to the #metoo movement, religious freedom and Israeli politics. Many of these suggestions did turn out to matter quite a bit, as did a few issues that weren’t mentioned, like the cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and gun violence in sacred spaces.

What will 2019 bring? Some ongoing debates, like how to balance protections for conservative religious and LGBT Americans at the same time, show no sign of slowing down. Catholic leaders will continue to struggle with lawsuits and church members’ pain and anger. Faith groups will keep fighting the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

New or lesser-known issues will also demand coverage. Lists from Religion News Service and the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California predict significant movement in debates over married Catholic priests, climate change and masculinity.

In this edition of ReligionLink, learn about three more emerging issues to watch in 2019 and the people who can help you cover them.

1. The rise of 'Religion: all'

Washington Post reporter Julie Zauzmer contributed a faith-themed item to her paper’s annual In/Out List. She predicted that, in 2019, religious “nones” will be replaced with religious “all of the aboves.”

Many religion researchers and commentators support this conclusion, arguing that we’ve mischaracterized people who’ve stepped away from traditional religious practices. Rather than avoiding faith, members of this group may actually lead very spiritual lives.

This year, look for opportunities to write about unique blends of religious and spiritual practices as you continue to follow the decline of organized religion.

Related readings

Potential sources

2. The growing significance of nonreligious voters

Ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, secular organizations worked together to get out the vote among atheists, agnostics and other nonreligious Americans. As 2020 campaigns pick up steam this year, that work will continue and it deserves more coverage.

Groups such as American Atheists and the Secular Coalition for America are using political organizing as a way to better understand the communities they serve. These efforts to clearly define secular values are mirrored by current research projects within the field of religious studies.

In 2019, members of Congress may bring even more attention to religious disaffiliation. The number of leaders who answered “Don’t know/refuse” when asked to share their religious identification rose from 10 to 18 this year, according to Pew Research Center.

Related readings

Potential sources

3. Mounting tension over international religious freedom violations

Members of the Trump administration talk about religious freedom regularly. Last year, they hosted a first-of-its-kind ministerial on the subject, pulling in participants from more than 80 countries around the world.

But is this talk paired with enough action against religious freedom violators? Countries such as China and Pakistan, which are endangering the lives of religious minorities, won’t change their ways because of a strongly worded statement.

In 2019, the Trump administration will continue to focus on international religious freedom. New statements or conferences create opportunities to cover whether human rights groups think American leaders are making a difference.

Related readings

Potential sources

  • Kristina Arriaga de Bucholz

    Kristina Arriaga de Bucholz is a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. She previously served as an adviser to the U.S. delegation to the United Nations Human Rights Commission.

  • Andrew Bennett

    Andrew Bennett is a senior fellow with the Religious Freedom Institute in Washington, D.C., and law program director for Cardus, a faith-based think tank in Ontario, Canada. He previously served as Canada’s ambassador for religious freedom.

    Contact: 613-241-4500 x510.
  • Samuel D. Brownback

    Samuel D. Brownback is the U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. He previously served as governor of Kansas, as well as a U.S. representative and senator. 

  • Ganoune Diop

    Ganoune Diop serves as general secretary of the International Religious Liberty Association, which is based in Silver Spring, Md. He is an ordained Seventh-day Adventist minister and he previously taught biblical languages, exegesis and theology at Adventist universities in France and the U.S.

    Contact: 301-680-6683.
  • Brian Grim

    Brian J. Grim is president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, which makes the case that religious freedom is good for business. Formerly at Pew Research Center, Grim is a leading expert on the socioeconomic impact of restrictions on religious freedom and international religious demography.

  • Katayoun Kishi

    Katayoun Kishi is a research associate with Pew Research Center. She leads the center’s annual exploration of restrictions on religious practice around the world.  Arrange interviews through Anna Schiller.

  • Johnnie Moore

    Johnnie Moore is a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. He also serves as an informal spokesperson for President Donald Trump’s group of evangelical advisers.

  • David Saperstein

    David Saperstein is an American rabbi, lawyer, and Jewish community leader who served as United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom from 2015 – 2017. He previously served as the director and chief legal counsel at the Union for Reform Judaism‘s Religious Action Center for more than 40 years and as a Commissioner at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.  He Is one of the founders of the Multi-Faith Neighbors Network. The network seeks to build mutual trust and respect among faith leaders through civic engagement, authentic relationships, and honest dialogue leading to resilient, compassionate, and flourishing communities.

  • Ahmed Shaheed

    Ahmed Shaheed is the United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.