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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Can America's 'Civil Religion' Still Unite The Country?

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Retiring NPR Correspondent Looks At How Religion Beat Has Changed

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The Mulema family fled the Central African Republic, spent years in a refugee camp, and were eventually resettled in Newark, Del., by Jewish Family Services. Tom Gjelten/NPR hide caption

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U.S. Refugee Program 'On Life Support,' Facing Big Challenges

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The Vatican Has Announced The Church 'Cannot' Bless Same-Sex Unions

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Faith groups are deeply split over the Equality Act. Evangelicals, Catholics, Latter-day Saints and Orthodox Jews say it limits religious freedom. Mainline Protestants and other progressive faith groups support it. Jessica Rinaldi/Boston Globe via Getty Images hide caption

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Jessica Rinaldi/Boston Globe via Getty Images

Some Faith Leaders Call Equality Act Devastating; For Others, It's God's Will

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A health care worker holds a vial of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at South Shore University Hospital in Bay Shore, N.Y., on Wednesday. Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images hide caption

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Some U.S. Faith Leaders Express Moral Concerns About Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

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Christian Groups Resist Johnson & Johnson Vaccine For Using Abortion-Derived Cells

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Empty pews are marked for spacing in a Manhattan church on Nov. 27, 2020 in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images hide caption

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Clergy On The Pandemic Front Lines: 'How Do We Really Grieve?'

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A mob of former President Donald Trump supporters breached the U.S Capitol security on Jan. 6. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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A 'Scary' Survey Finding: 4 In 10 Republicans Say Political Violence May Be Necessary

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Biden's Support Of Abortion Rights At Odds With Catholic Bishops

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President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden attended the virtual presidential inaugural prayer service from the State Dining Room of the White House. Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images hide caption

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At The National Prayer Service, A Plea To Avoid 'Simplistic Calls For Unity'

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Faith Leaders Called For Divine Blessing Of New Administration On Inauguration Day

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"JESUS SAVES" banners were among those carried during a rally on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington before rioters stormed the Capitol. Spencer Platt/Getty Images hide caption

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Militant Christian Nationalists Remain A Potent Force, Even After The Capitol Riot

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Some Christians Feel It's A God-Given Mission To Fight On Trump's Behalf

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