Tom Gjelten Tom Gjelten covers issues of religion, faith, and belief for NPR News.
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Tom Gjelten

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Tom Gjelten
Wanyu Zhang /NPR

Tom Gjelten

Correspondent, Religion and Belief, National Desk

Tom Gjelten reports on 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 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. Over the next decade, he covered social and political strife in Central and 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 latest book, A Nation of Nations: A Great American Immigration Story (Simon & Schuster), published in 2015, recounts the impact on America of the 1965 Immigration Act, which officially opened the country's doors to immigrants of color. He has also contributed to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and other outlets.

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 graduate of the University of Minnesota, he began his professional career as a public school teacher and freelance writer.

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Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI arrives at St Peter's basilica in 2015. Benedict has stayed largely silent on the church's sex abuse scandal for the past six years. Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images

"We're trying to build a community that puts into practice what it really means to love your neighbors," says Christopher Edmonston, White Memorial Presbyterian Church's senior pastor. Tom Gjelten/NPR hide caption

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Pastoring A Purple Church: 'I Absolutely Bite My Tongue Sometimes'

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U.S. Resettling Record Low Numbers Of Refugees

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Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory speaks during a Mass to repent clergy sexual abuse and to pray for molestation victims, in Indianapolis, in June 2017. Pope Francis has named him as the new archbishop of Washington D.C. Darron Cummings/AP hide caption

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Pope Names New D.C. Archbishop

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Leaders from the United Methodist Church confer during the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church in St. Louis, Mo. America's second-largest Protestant denomination faces a likely fracture as delegates voted to strengthen bans on same-sex marriage and ordination of LGBT clergy. Sid Hastings/AP hide caption

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United Methodists Face Fractured Future

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Evangelicals pray during a church service in Havana, Cuba. Religious groups on the island have come out in opposition to a new constitution which will be voted on on Sunday. Ramon Espinosa/AP hide caption

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Pope Francis has called Catholic leaders from around the world to the Vatican this week for a meeting about clergy sexual abuse. Gregorio Borgia/AP hide caption

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As Pope Holds Sex Abuse Summit, U.S. Catholics Not Hopeful For 'Bold Moves'

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Catholic Leaders To Gather In Rome To Discuss Continuing Clergy Sexual Abuse Crisis

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People pray during the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Phoenix in 2017. Matt York/AP hide caption

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After Explosive Sex Abuse Allegations, Southern Baptist Leaders Promise Reform

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Pope Francis meets Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI prior to the opening of the Holy Door of St. Peter's Basilica on Dec. 8, 2015 in Vatican City, Vatican. Vatican Pool/Getty Images hide caption

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Dozens of clergy members, immigration activists and others participate in a protest against the imprisonment and potential deportation of an immigration activist. Religious liberals are becoming increasingly outspoken in their opposition to many Trump administration policies. Spencer Platt/Getty Images hide caption

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Provoked By Trump, The Religious Left Is Finding Its Voice

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Christian icons damaged by fighting are seen in a monastery in the village of Maaloula, north of Damascus, Syria. U.S. evangelicals are concerned that a pullout of U.S. troops will leave Syrian Christians vulnerable to attack. Alexander Kots/AP hide caption

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U.S. Evangelicals Push Back Against Trump's Syria Pullout Plan

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