Survey: Same-sex marriage, Pope Francis top religion stories of year

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Mississippi's law that banned same-sex adoption is one of a stream of state laws attempting to limit the impact of the legalization of gay marriage. Religion News Service photo by Adelle M. Banks

Mississippi's law that banned same-sex adoption is one of a stream of state laws attempting to limit the impact of the legalization of gay marriage. Religion News Service photo by Adelle M. Banks

An "Equality" flag waves against the sky as crowds gathered in front of the Supreme Court on April 28, 2015 as justices heard arguments about same-sex marriage. Religion News Service photo by Adelle M. Banks

An “equality” flag waves against the sky as crowds gathered in front of the Supreme Court on April 28, 2015, as justices heard arguments about same-sex marriage. Religion News Service photo by Adelle M. Banks

(RNS) The Supreme Court ruling that prompted the White House to light up like a giant rainbow made the top slot in the Religion Newswriters Association’s annual ranking of the 10 most important religion news stories of the year.

The case was Obergefell v. Hodges, and in late June, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to make same-sex marriage the law of the land. Members of the Religion Newswriters Association, an organization of professional journalists who cover religion, named it the most important religion news story of the year.

That’s quite a feat in a year that included the European migrant crisis; the rise of ISIS; growing anti-Islamic rhetoric, especially among political candidates; and a papal visit to the East Coast. Those stories ranked second, third, fourth and fifth, respectively.


READ: Is this the first papal selfie? Alas, the viral Pope Francis story that wasn’t


Also cracking the top 10 from a list of 26 major stories were the Paris terror attacks (ranked sixth); Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change (seventh), the Charleston church shootings (eighth); the support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement from religious leaders (ninth); and Pope Francis’ ongoing agenda to push for change and reform in the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis talks aboard the papal plane while en route to Italy September 28, 2015. Photo by Tony Gentile courtesy of Reuters

Pope Francis talks aboard the papal plane while en route to Italy Sept. 28, 2015. Photo by Tony Gentile courtesy of Reuters

It was a good year for Pope Francis, according to religion reporters. RNA members also named him their Newsmaker of the Year for the third year in a row.

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision will have repercussions in the religious world for years to come, so it’s fitting that journalists ranked it the No. 1 story,” said Debra L. Mason, executive director of Religion Newswriters Foundation and director of the Center on Religion & the Professions at the University of Missouri School of Journalism.


READ: O come to church all ye faithful, sort of faithful and atheists, too


“Pope Francis’ impact and ability to drive news is clear from the number of major news stories in which he was a central player, from his visit to the U.S. to his encyclical on the environment. He was clearly the top religious newsmaker.”

Other stories in the list of 26 include the San Bernardino shootings (11), the rise of Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis as a Christian hero (12), the Mormon church’s rejection of its gay and lesbian members (18) and the deaths of more than 2,000 people in a stampede in Saudi Arabia during the annual hajj (20).

The Religion Newswriters Association conducted its survey among its 480 members, most of whom are journalists working in the United States.

(Kimberly Winston is a national correspondent for Religion News Service. You can follow her at @kjwinston11)

  • G Key

    Re marriage equality, the Pope, and “who’s infringing on whom”:

    I’m an atheist who values inequality-lessness, trespass-lessness, and cruelty-lessness, and who embraces the Golden Rule by respecting others’ personal boundaries, beliefs, privacy, and equality, as I would have others respect mine.

    My values have served me well in unraveling the “religious freedom” knot and deciding how to treat others.

    For example, the question of whether to sell flowers, serve food, or sign a license to a couple whose marriage you oppose answers itself if you respect their boundaries & privacy, and recognize they’re your customers, not your business. And since they’re your equals, and their beliefs are rightfully theirs, it’s clearly not moral to disparage their lives or subject them to your own chosen moral principles.

    This perspective has helped me find peace both within myself and with others.

    I wanted to share this with anyone who’s troubled by these issues.

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  • Rocky Cephas

    What a mince of words. Bad bad journalism. Anything to get an audience. Junk.

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  • Billysees

    Nice-to-know summary of religious events.