Observing the services from a back pew in the Salt Lake Buddhist Temple, I noticed a broad population of worshipers: about half of the congregation was Caucasian. Rev. Jerry Hirano told me that just 20 years ago, more than 99 percent of those attending services were Japanese.
Indeed, when Buddhist and Hindu temples were first established in America more than a century ago, they were the spiritual and cultural gathering places for Asian immigrants who came to America seeking economic opportunity. The same can be said for many of religions brought to America by immigrants.
But times have changed. I saw many followers who don't hail from India observing prayers and meditation rites at the Sri Ganesha Hindu Temple. The congregations at local mosques and formerly all-black Christian churches across America are similarly seeing a growing number of converts from other faith traditions.
Reporting on how people live their respective faiths — whether Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim or Mormon — I have witnessed firsthand what demographers have been pointing out for years: that America’s religious landscape is changing.
In 2012, the Deseret News explored this change through interviews with members of a variety of faiths, including leaders in efforts to educate the country about religion and promote interfaith dialogue. Many emphasized the importance of understanding diverse faith traditions in order to eliminate stereotypes that can lead to discrimination or violence, blunting the powerful force for good that religion can be in a community.
The faith beat also followed the growing number of youth and young adults who are drifting from religion, with an eye toward what faith leaders and families are doing to counter that trend.
As a backdrop to these trends in religion, we also documented a growing threat to the freedom to practice religion and follow one's conscience. People of faith are increasingly facing laws that demand they make a choice between their conscience or secular rules and regulations. Battles over the line between church and state continue to crop up. The Deseret News has chronicled the work of those seeking — and finding — ways to ensure that all Americans, believers and non-believers alike, can exercise their First Amendment rights and have a voice in the public square.
That public conversation will only grow in importance as the American religious landscape continues to change. But even as it changes, faith remains a vibrant and integral part of the lived experience of millions of Americans and a cornerstone of coverage at the Deseret News.
Many pro-life physicians, nurses and now even pharmacists feel they are being asked to choose between conscience and career. Pro-choice advocates, meanwhile, believe that refusal to serve, inform or refer patients stigmatizes them, undermines care and dangerously isolates providers. In recent months, conflict has escalated in hospitals, medical schools and professional organizations.
Read the full report here: Pro-life health professionals in conflict between conscience and career
Faith groups have not always held a proactive role in addressing environmental issues. In the late 1960s, some scholars even went so far as to blame the Christian concept that humans have dominion over the Earth for the damage that's been done to nature over the centuries. Religious groups in turn, have bristled at an environmentalist cause that seems to focus on worshipping nature, rather than the God who created it. But experts say religious attitudes toward the environment are now shifting to be more proactive toward preservation.
Read the full report here: Caring for creation: Faith groups have a role in environmental causes
Photographer Elaine Huguenin has become a poster child for the growing conflict between same-sex marriage and the rights of people of faith — a conflict that experts say is negatively affecting the rights of religious individuals and organizations to live their faith freely and without fear of punishment.
Read the full report here: Colliding causes: Gay rights and religious liberty
Although the great wave of immigration that has taken place over the past few decades has included a wide variety of people from great world religions — Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism for example — the majority of those who migrate to America are Christian. And while these people profess the same beliefs, the culture they bring is changing the flavor of American Christianity.
Read the full report here:Diffusion of faith: Immigrants are transforming American Christianity
As the "Mormon moment" extended into 2012, the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life released a groundbreaking new survey, the first ever published by a non-LDS research organization to focus exclusively on members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and their beliefs, values, perceptions and political preferences.
Read the full report here: 'Mormons in America' Pew survey explores beliefs, attitudes of LDS Church members
Dr. Richard J. Mouw will step down as president of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., next summer after 20 years at the helm. He leaves a legacy of compassionate and faithful interreligious dialogue with diverse groups of believers.
Read the full report here: An interreligious pioneer: Evangelical seminary president builds bridges through 'convicted civility'
Michael Cromartie's name first started appearing in national publications when the religious right was staking out its territory in national politics in the late 1980s.
An evangelical with a deep understanding of the movement and keen political insight and connections, Cromartie had written and edited books about rise of the "moral majority." And with evangelical Pat Robertson running for president, Cromartie was becoming a go-to source for journalists seeking some clarity on a topic the mainstream media could no longer ignore.
Read the full report here: The faith angle: Evangelical has become the go-to guy for news media covering religion
Since 9/11, no religious community’s place in the United States has been more hotly contested than that of American Muslims. From fights over the construction of mosques in places as varied as rural Tennessee and lower Manhattan, to congressional hearings over fears of “homegrown” Muslim radicals, many Americans express ambivalence to the idea of welcoming Muslims as their neighbors. For the Muslim community in America however, this ambivalence is not shared. In fact, most American Muslims feel right at home in America.
Read the full report here: Right at home: U.S. mosques are often more Middle America than Middle East
Nearly 59 percent of young adults ages 18 to 29 with a Christian background disconnect, either permanently or for an extended time, from church life after age 15, according to a recent study by the Barna Group, a nonpartisan group in Ventura, Calif., that studies the intersection of faith and culture.
Religious leaders are desperately trying to reverse such statistics through a variety of approaches.
Read the full report here: Wandering from worship: What churches are doing to hold on to the next generation
Experts say that educating children and public officials about the increasingly diverse faith traditions in their local communities is critical to maintaining peace and religious freedom.
Read the full report here: Religious differences push need for better understanding of Eastern religions