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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Cesa Pusateri, 12, and her grandfather, Timothy Waxenfelter, principal of Quigley Catholic High School, leave with his collection of speech and debate books after the closure of the school in Baden, Pa., on June 8, 2020. According to the National Catholic Educational Association, at least 100 schools have announced in recent weeks that they won't reopen this fall. Jessie Wardarski/AP hide caption

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Jessie Wardarski/AP

The Closure Of Catholic Schools Is 'Devastating,' Advocates Say

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Coronavirus Pandemic Hits Catholic Schools Especially Hard

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A member of the security personnel wears a mask during a Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Alex Wong / Getty Images hide caption

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Alex Wong / Getty Images

COVID-19 Surge Has Some Church Leaders Rethinking Whether To Reopen

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The choir at Meadowridge Baptist church in Fort Worth, Texas, performs at a worship service in October 2019. Tom Gjelten/NPR hide caption

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Tom Gjelten/NPR

Multiracial Congregations May Not Bridge Racial Divide

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Recent SCOTUS Decisions On Religion Open Up New Questions

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James Henley Thornwell regularly defended slavery and promoted white supremacy from his pulpit at the First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, S.C. A.H. Ritchie/The Collected Writings of James Henley Thornwell, 1871 hide caption

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A.H. Ritchie/The Collected Writings of James Henley Thornwell, 1871

White Supremacist Ideas Have Historical Roots In U.S. Christianity

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Evangelical Christians traditionally focus on individual sin and salvation. But some are taking a wider view when it comes to addressing systemic racism. Reza/Getty Images hide caption

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Evangelical Christians Grapple With Racism As Sin

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Why Talking About Systemic Racism Can Be Difficult For Evangelical Pastors

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President Trump Visits John Paul II Shrine To Promote International Religious Freedom

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CDC Revises Guidance For Churches, No Longer Limiting Choirs

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Despite Trump's Demand, Not All Houses Of Worship Reopen

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