Bob Smietana

Bob Smietana is a veteran religion writer and editor-in-chief of Religion News Service.

All Stories by Bob Smietana

Feds offer atheists a clergy tax break that they don’t want

August 21, 2013

(RNS) “We are not a church,” atheists say. Government lawyers disagree, saying atheist leaders can be considered ministers.

Is God an angry ogre? Presbyterians and Baptists debate

August 16, 2013

(RNS) A dispute over a hymn has Presbyterians and Baptists tussling over the Christian doctrines of the atonement, which explain why Jesus died and whether his death satisfies God’s wrath over humankind’s sinfulness.

A reality TV show about snake handlers to debut in September

August 14, 2013

(RNS) The series will feature scenes from church services where worshipers handle snakes, as well as the day-to-day struggle to live out their faith.

ACLU says magistrate can’t order ‘Messiah’ name change

August 13, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (RNS) “In this case, the judge is creating a culture where she is imposing her religious beliefs on others,” said Hedy Weinberg of the Tennessee ACLU. “And that is unacceptable.”

Presbyterians stir debate by rejecting popular new hymn

August 6, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (RNS) Critics say the move to drop the popular hymn “In Christ Alone” from a new Presbyterian hymnal was sparked by liberals wanting to take God’s wrath out of the hymnal. The committee says there’s plenty of wrath in the new hymnal.

Reza Aslan defends controversial new book on Jesus

August 2, 2013

(RNS) Reza Aslan’s controversial new book about Jesus is about to make him a best-selling author. “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth” has already reached No. 1 on But critics say Aslan has simply created his own version of Jesus.

The evolution of Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore

July 22, 2013

(RNS) Russell Moore is conservative but not angry. He’s skeptical about politics, and believes that kindness is not a weakness. He’s also critical of Bible Belt faith, which he says sees Christianity as a normal part of American life.

Tweet your way out of purgatory (but there’s work involved)

July 18, 2013

(RNS) Pope Francis plans to grant plenary indulgences by Twitter during the World Youth Day, which will be held July 23-28 in Brazil. But to get an indulgence, Catholics must have already had their sins absolved by a priest.

Young Muslim musicians marry faith, hip-hop, rock ‘n’ roll

July 3, 2013

(RNS) A group of young Muslim musicians arre combining hip-hop, country and pop music with an old Islamic song genre known as a “nasheed.”

Churches move to cut ties to Scouts after gay policy change

June 3, 2013

The Southern Baptist Convention, whose 3,981 Scout troops make it the BSA’s sixth-largest religious sponsor, plans to address the issue at its annual meeting in Houston, June 11-12.

Church leaders tackle the stigma of mental illness

May 6, 2013

(RNS) For years, Southern Baptist leader Frank Page did not share the painful details of his daughter’s suicide, fearing that some Christians might speak ill of her if they knew. Mental illness and suicide were taboo topics for many churches, seen as a kind of spiritual failure. That may be starting to change.

Modern hymn writers revive a lost musical art

April 30, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (RNS) Most songwriters in Nashville want to get their songs on the radio. Keith and Kristyn Getty hope their songs end up in dusty old hymnbooks.

Christian worker quits over 666 on tax form

February 7, 2013

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (RNS) Walter Slonopas said he quit his job last week in order to save his soul, resigning after his W-2 tax form was stamped with the number 666.

Catholic hospital under fire for saying fetuses aren’t ‘people’

January 25, 2013

(RNS) A Catholic hospital in Colorado has argued in court documents that it is not liable for the deaths of two 7-month-old fetuses because those fetuses are not people.

Pastor who pushes corporal punishment accused of abuse

January 16, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (RNS) A pastor known for promoting corporal punishment has been accused of physically abusing a woman for 25 years, beginning during her childhood. By Bob Smietana / USA Today.

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