Tom Gjelten

Tom Gjelten covers issues of religion, faith, and belief for NPR News, a beat that encompasses such areas as the changing religious landscape in America, the formation of personal identity, the role of religion in politics, and social and cultural conflict arising from religious differences. His reporting draws on his many years covering national and international news from posts in Washington and around the world.

In 1986, Gjelten became one of NPR's pioneer foreign correspondents, posted first in Latin America and then in Central Europe. In the years that followed, he covered the wars in Central America, social and political strife in South America, the first Gulf War, the wars in the former Yugoslavia, and the transitions to democracy in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

His reporting from Sarajevo from 1992 to 1994 was the basis for his book Sarajevo Daily: A City and Its Newspaper Under Siege (HarperCollins), praised by the New York Times as "a chilling portrayal of a city's slow murder." He is also the author of Professionalism in War Reporting: A Correspondent's View (Carnegie Corporation) and a contributor to Crimes of War: What the Public Should Know (W. W. Norton).

After returning from his overseas assignments, Gjelten covered U.S. diplomacy and military affairs, first from the State Department and then from the Pentagon. He was reporting live from the Pentagon at the moment it was hit on September 11, 2001, and he was NPR's lead Pentagon reporter during the early war in Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq. Gjelten has also reported extensively from Cuba in recent years. His 2008 book, Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba: The Biography of a Cause (Viking), is a unique history of modern Cuba, told through the life and times of the Bacardi rum family. The New York Times selected it as a "Notable Nonfiction Book," and the Washington Post, Kansas City Star, and San Francisco Chronicle all listed it among their "Best Books of 2008." His new book, A Nation of Nations: A Great American Immigration Story (Simon & Schuster), recounts the impact on America of the 1965 Immigration Act, which officially opened the country's doors to immigrants of color.

Since joining NPR in 1982 as labor and education reporter, Gjelten has won numerous awards for his work, including two Overseas Press Club Awards, a George Polk Award, and a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a regular panelist on the PBS program "Washington Week," and a member of the editorial board at World Affairs Journal. A graduate of the University of Minnesota, he began his professional career as a public school teacher and freelance writer.

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Religion
5:09 am
Fri July 17, 2015

Same-Sex Marriage Ruling Raises Questions Of Religious Rights, Tax Status

Originally published on Sun July 19, 2015 2:00 pm

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Parallels
7:49 am
Sun July 12, 2015

At The NSA, A Rising Star's Commitment To Faith — And Public Service

"I try to lead an examined life," says Anne Neuberger, the NSA's chief risk officer. "I try to lead a life where I'm asking myself that question: Have I earned the gift of existence, in some way?" All her grandparents were Holocaust survivors.
Courtesy of National Security Agency

Originally published on Sun July 12, 2015 9:39 am

As Chief Risk Officer at the National Security Agency, Anne Neuberger has reason to think carefully about questions of how far the agency should go in collecting intelligence: Not far enough, and U.S. national security is at risk. Too far, and Americans' civil liberties are at risk.

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It's All Politics
12:23 pm
Fri July 10, 2015

Pastors Eye A Move From God's House To The Statehouse

"Somebody's values are going to reign supreme," said David Lane, who has organized political training sessions for evangelical pastors. "We want people with our values to be elected to office and to represent our interests there."
Brandon Thibodeaux Getty Images

Originally published on Wed July 15, 2015 4:11 pm

Many ministers do their best to stay away from politics when they preach, but hundreds of conservative pastors around the country are so upset about what they see as a moral crisis in government that they are preparing to run for public office themselves, with the goal of bringing "biblical values" to the political arena.

The initiative is led by David Lane, a born-again Christian and self-described "political operative" who has organized four large-scale training sessions in which evangelical pastors are tutored in the practical aspects of running a political campaign.

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Religion
4:29 pm
Mon June 29, 2015

Conservative Pastors Deliver Sharp Criticism Of Same-Sex Marriage

Originally published on Tue June 30, 2015 12:53 am

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Europe
4:44 pm
Wed June 10, 2015

Pope Creates Tribunal To Investigate Bishops Accused Of Hiding Sex Abuse

Originally published on Sun June 14, 2015 10:04 pm

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National Security
5:10 pm
Fri June 5, 2015

Why Are Only Three Observant Sikh Men Serving In The U.S. Military?

Army Cpl. Simranpreet Lamba (center) stands in formation with fellow soldiers before taking the oath of citizenship, prior to his graduation from basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., in 2010. He was the first enlisted soldier to be granted a religious accommodation as a Sikh since 1984.
Brett Flashnick AP

Originally published on Fri June 5, 2015 8:24 pm

If a Muslim woman may wear a headscarf at work, as the U.S. Supreme Court has now affirmed, perhaps a Sikh man should be able to wear a turban while serving in the U.S. military.

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Religion
4:58 pm
Tue May 12, 2015

Survey Shows Number Of Christians In U.S. Is Declining

Originally published on Wed May 13, 2015 9:14 am

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Parallels
3:23 am
Thu April 30, 2015

Learning About The Quran ... From A Catholic Archbishop

Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald is one of the Catholic Church's top experts on Islam. He has served the Vatican in places such as Tunisia, Uganda and Egypt, and now is promoting interfaith understanding by teaching Jesuit students in Cleveland about the Quran.
Rob Wetzler

Originally published on Thu April 30, 2015 3:11 pm

As a 12-year-old Catholic boy growing up in England, Michael Fitzgerald decided he wanted to be a missionary in Africa. Eight years later, he was studying theology and learning Arabic in Tunisia.

He went on to devote his priestly ministry to the promotion of interfaith understanding between Muslims and Christians, and became one of the top Roman Catholic experts on Islam. He has served as the archbishop of Tunisia, the papal nuncio — effectively a Vatican ambassador — in Cairo, and the Vatican's delegate to the Arab League.

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Religion
6:00 pm
Thu April 2, 2015

Muslims Will Outnumber Christians This Century, Pew Says

Originally published on Thu April 2, 2015 7:27 pm

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Religion
5:20 pm
Thu March 26, 2015

Church Of Scientology Calls New HBO Documentary 'Bigoted'

The HBO documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief airs Sunday — over the vigorous objection of Scientology officials.
Courtesy of HBO

Originally published on Thu March 26, 2015 8:01 pm

The Church of Scientology is famous for its efforts to silence its critics, but it has not blocked an upcoming HBO film that turns a harsh light on the powerful organization and its leadership.

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, directed by Academy Award-winning documentarian Alex Gibney, will debut Sunday over the vigorous objection of Scientology officials.

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Religion
5:19 pm
Fri March 13, 2015

Pope Francis Very Popular Among Both U.S. Catholics, Non-Catholics

Originally published on Fri March 13, 2015 8:00 pm

Pope Francis has maintained high approval ratings even as the Catholic Church struggles with declining membership and the effects of the sexual abuse scandal. In six months, he will make an anticipated visit to the U.S.

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The Two-Way
12:43 pm
Thu February 26, 2015

Pew Study On Religion Finds Increased Harassment Of Jews

Boys in Uppsala, Sweden, read supportive messages placed at the entrance of a mosque following an attack in January. A new Pew study finds that religious intolerance is a global problem, with Muslims facing more hostility from individuals, and Christians from governments. Targeting of Jews, the study found, has gotten worse over in recent years.
Anders Wiklund AP

Originally published on Thu February 26, 2015 9:42 pm

Updated at 2 p.m. ET.

This week, a man was sentenced to die in Saudi Arabia because he renounced his faith in Islam; a Hindu leader in India made a new accusation against Mother Teresa; a mosque near Bethlehem was set on fire.

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Religion
9:23 am
Sun February 15, 2015

Some See Extreme 'Anti-Theism' As Motive In N.C. Killings

This image provided by the Durham County Sheriff's Office shows a booking photo of Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, who was arrested on three counts of murder early Wednesday. On his Facebook page, Hicks described himself as a gun-toting atheist.
Durham County Sheriff's Office AP

Originally published on Sun February 15, 2015 12:49 pm

Outrage over the murder of three young Muslim Americans in North Carolina last week has gone international. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation said Saturday that the killings reflected "Islamophobia" and "bear the symptoms of a hate crime," but local authorities say they don't yet know what motivated the murders.

The man held responsible for the killings is an avowed atheist. Whether that's relevant in this case is not clear, but some experts see a new extremism developing among some atheists.

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Politics
4:56 pm
Tue February 10, 2015

New Government Agency Designed To Tackle Cyber Threats More Effectively

Originally published on Thu February 12, 2015 12:29 am

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National Security
1:39 pm
Fri January 17, 2014

Obama Highlights Challenges Of Balancing Security, Liberty

Coverage of President Obama's speech about proposed changes for the National Security Agency continues with more of his comments, plus analysis.

National Security
5:21 pm
Wed January 15, 2014

Senate Committee Lays Blame For Benghazi With State Department

Originally published on Wed January 15, 2014 7:44 pm

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The Senate Intelligence Committee today delivered its analysis of the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya. Four Americans were killed in that attack, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens. It's a bipartisan report. Democrats and Republicans on the committee agreed, among other things, that the attack might have been prevented if the State Department had taken better precautions at the Benghazi post.

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National Security
5:47 am
Mon January 13, 2014

Surveillance Controversy: NSA Versus Tech Companies

Originally published on Mon January 13, 2014 12:18 pm

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President Obama is expected to announce Friday how he wants to reform surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency. Those previously secret programs were exposed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. American technology companies are among those pushing hardest for change. Having been caught up in the surveillance controversy, they are braced for battle. NPR's Tom Gjelten dubs that battle the NSA versus the techs.

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National Security
6:04 am
Thu January 2, 2014

Is U.S. Ready Rethink Sept. 11 Security Policies?

Originally published on Thu January 2, 2014 7:52 am

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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

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And I'm David Greene. Good morning. President Obama says he will soon propose changes at the National Security Agency. Former contractor Edward Snowden's disclosure of NSA surveillance programs widespread criticism and prompted a review of the agency's operations by Congress, the courts, and the White House. NPR's Tom Gjelten looks at whether the country is now at a turning point, ready to rethink the security policies in place since 9/11.

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National Security
4:21 pm
Fri December 27, 2013

U.S. Judge Says NSA Phone Data Program Is Legal, Valuable

Originally published on Fri December 27, 2013 7:15 pm

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel. A stunning court disagreement today over the National Security Agency's mass collection of telephone records. Just one week after a D.C. federal judge found it unconstitutional, New York federal Judge William Pauley determined concluded the opposite. The program, he says, is lawful. The conflicting opinions came in response to two challenges to the NSA's phone data collection.

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National Security
4:54 pm
Tue December 17, 2013

Snowden's Document Leaks Shocked The NSA, And More May Be On The Way

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 12:31 am

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That lawsuit over NSA surveillance would likely never have happened if former NSA contractor Edward Snowden hadn't leaked classified documents that showed what the agency was doing. Snowden also revealed that the U.S. government was monitoring the communications of foreign leaders, among other secret activities. Intelligence officials say they're still coping with the ramifications of all these unauthorized disclosures.

NPR's Tom Gjelten has been covering the Snowden leaks since they became known in June, and he joins me now.

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