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RNA Members Name Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade Decision Top Story of 2022


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RNA Members Name Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade Decision Top Story of 2022

The Iranian women who lead in protests against their nation’s theocracy named newsmakers of the year

News Article by Religion News Association

The Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade was named the top U.S. religion story of 2022 by members of the Religion News Association.

The Iranian women who have led protests against their nation’s theocracy were named the top religion newsmakers of the year in the association’s annual survey of top religion stories and newsmakers. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturning Roe, was the runner-up for newsmaker, followed by Moscow Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, who defended the Russian invasion on spiritual and moral grounds.

Other top U.S. stories included the mixed success of Christian nationalist candidates in the midterm primaries and elections and a blistering report on sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention.

Members of the Religion News Association, a 73-year-old trade association for reporters who cover religion in the news media, have been voting on the annual story poll for decades.

“With so many major religion stories across the world, we decided to offer two categories for the first time in 2022 — Top Ten U.S. and Top Ten International,” said RNA Treasurer Ken Chitwood.* “While in previous years we combined domestic and international stories into a single list, we recognized that our increasingly interconnected world might call for distinct categories for voters’ consideration.”


People pray to end abortion at a vigil outside Planned Parenthood in Spokane / Photo by Cassy Benefield (SpokaneFāVS)

  1. The Supreme Court overturns the 1973 Roe v. Wade precedent and says there is no constitutional right to abortion, sparking battles in courts and state legislatures and driving voters to the November polls in high numbers. More than a dozen states enact abortion bans, while voters reject constitutional abortion restrictions in conservative Kansas and Kentucky and put abortion rights in three other states’ constitutions.
  2. Candidates embracing Christian Nationalist themes gain numerous Republican nominations but fare less well in the general midterm elections, while experts and activists debate the extent and alleged danger of a fusion of American and Christian identity. After smaller-than-expected Republican electoral wins, attributed by some to the long shadow of Donald Trump, many religious leaders who formerly supported him voice wariness over his announced campaign to regain the presidency. 
  3. An outside report on the Southern Baptist Convention says denominational leaders mishandled sex abuse claims and mistreated victims. Multiple other revelations energize the #ChurchToo movement, calling for accountability for sexual abuse or harassment in organizations ranging from Kanakuk Camps to Christianity Today magazine to the Anglican Church in North America. In a viral video, a woman confronts her Indiana pastor and longtime abuser.
  4. Many religious congregations struggle to return to pre-pandemic attendance levels after resuming in-person worship.
  5. Supreme Court issues a raft of religious-freedom rulings, allowing a death-row inmate greater access to his chaplain at his October execution, requiring Boston to allow a Christian flag to be flown at city hall and requiring Maine to allow religious schools access to tax-funded tuition aid.
  6. Amid rising antisemitism, Adidas ends partnership with Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, and social-media companies restrict his accounts over his antisemitic remarks. Former President Trump’s dinner with Ye and openly antisemitic guest Nick Fuentes spurs denunciations from his Jewish supporters. NBA star Kyrie Irvin is suspended after posting a link to an antisemitic film. 
  7. An Interior Department report documents how the U.S. government collaborated with churches in operating boarding schools for Indigenous children during the 19th and 20th centuries, when the federal government saw Christianizing Native children as part of a project to sever them from their culture, identities and land. The Episcopal Church establishes a commission to research the denomination’s role in operating such schools, while Oklahoma Catholic dioceses host listening sessions for school survivors.
  8. A slow-motion schism widens in the United Methodist Church with the launch of a conservative Global Methodist Church and the decisions of several hundred congregations to start or complete the process of leaving the denomination. A 2020 agreement for an amicable separation – following decades of controversies over LGBTQ issues and theology – loses its once-broad support.
  9. Non-denominational Christian churches soar in growth, according to the newly released 2020 U.S. Religion Census, a decennial survey conducted by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies. There are now more non-denominational churches than any denominations’ churches but Southern Baptists, and their 21 million adherents outnumber every group but Catholics. 
  10. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints endorses the Respect for Marriage Act, breaking with other conservative denominations in saying it would support rights for same-sex couples as long as these rights didn’t infringe upon religious groups’ rights. Congress approves the act, which is signed by President Biden, reflecting a revolutionary cultural shift toward support of same-sex marriage.
  11. More than a dozen states enact or consider laws restricting public-school instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity, policies supported by many religious conservatives but decried as “don’t say gay” laws by critics.
  12. Religious groups respond to a migrant surge at the U.S.-Mexico border and as far away as Martha’s Vineyard, where a church responds to the needs of migrants flown there in an attempt by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to publicize the issue. 
  13. A rabbi and three worshipers at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, survive a 10-hour hostage standoff by a captor voicing antisemitic prejudice. The hostages eventually escape and the captor is killed.
  14. Mass shootings claim lives at churches in Alabama and California. Faith leaders provide consolation and call for an end to gun violence and hate crimes after mass slayings targeting Black shoppers in Buffalo, New York, schoolchildren in Uvalde, Texas, and LGBTQ patrons of a Colorado Springs nightclub.
  15. Author Salman Rushdie is seriously injured in a stabbing attack at an event on free expression at the Chautauqua Institution in New York State. The suspect claimed in a jail interview that he believed Rushdie – the “Satanic Verses” novelist who was targeted for death by a 1989 edict of Iran’s late supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini – “attacked Islam.”
  16. New York State’s Board of Regents strengthens oversight of studies at religious and other private schools amid concerns – highlighted by a New York Times report – that scores of Hasidic Jewish schools deny students a basic secular education while receiving public funding.
  17. Ketanji Brown Jackson, who often cites the importance of her Christian faith without divulging specifics, is confirmed as the first Black woman on the Supreme Court. She describes herself as a non-denominational Protestant, becoming only the second sitting justice with a Protestant affiliation. 
  18. Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter – inspired in part by its suspension of the conservative Christian site Babylon Bee for an antitransgender satirical piece – spurs fears among religious groups of unmoderated hate speech, while many religious figures agonize over whether to leave or stay on the platform.
  19. Pastor Rick Warren retires after 42 years of leading the startup Saddleback Church in Southern California to become one of the nation’s largest megachurches. Warren, whose advocacy for women in ministry put him in tension with his denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, is succeeded by Andy Wood, who also advocates for women pastors but arrives amid criticism of alleged authoritarian leadership at his previous church.
  20. U.S. Supreme Court reimposes death penalty on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and upholds the conviction and death penalty of Dylann Roof for the 2015 racist massacre at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. 


Mahsa Amini
Bucharest, Romania – October 1, 2022: Details of people protesting against the death of the Iranian Masha Amini and for women’s fundamental rights in Iran, outside the Iranian embassy in Bucharest / Photo by Mircea Moira (Depositphotos)

  1. The Iranian women who lead in protests against their nation’s theocracy, publicly burning veils and cutting their hair after a 22-year-old woman dies in the custody of the Islamic republic’s morality police.
  2. Justice Samuel Alito, who writes the historic Supreme Court decision overturning the Roe v. Wade precedent, setting off a religiously charged, state-by-state battle over the legality of abortion.
  3. Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, who supports Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as part of a wider metaphysical conflict against alleged Western liberal encroachment, a stance that contributes to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s declaration of independence from the Russian Orthodox Church.
  4. Christian nationalists leaders, including elected officials, clergy and other public figures who play an outsized role in making Christian nationalism an increasingly mainstream part of Republican politics.
  5. Christa Brown, whose advocacy for fellow survivors of sexual abuse helped force a reckoning over the Southern Baptist Convention’s history of mishandling cases of sexually abusive ministers and of mistreating victims.
  6. Ukrainian President Volodymy Zelenskyy, the public face of Ukraine’s defense against the Russian invasion and who, though secular, speaks in terms of light triumphing over darkness and of defending religious pluralism – while also raising concern over his proposed restrictions on the Moscow-affiliated Ukrainian Orthodox Church. 
  7. Pope Francis, who apologizes to Indigenous peoples in Canada for abuses at residential schools, continues to reshape the College of Cardinals in his image and curtails travels due to a painful knee injury.
  8. Queen Elizabeth II, who dies after 70 years as monarch and head of the Church of England and whose mourning is marked by tributes to her Christian faith and by a High Church liturgy that is becoming increasingly unfamiliar to many in a secularizing and religiously diversifying Britain.
  9. Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist who is mourned worldwide after his death at age 95.
  10. Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker of Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, who offered a cup of tea to a guest and then navigated a 10-hour hostage siege by the armed visitor before Cytron-Walker and three other congregants reached safety.

*CORRECTION: Ken Chitwood was identified as president of RNA in an earlier version of this press release. He currently serves as RNA’s treasurer and, along with former RNA President Peter Smith, administers the annual Top Religion Story & Newsmaker poll.

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