Faith and religion were an integral part of the 2012 news cycle. From the contraceptive mandate to intense violence in the Middle East, many of the year's most pertinent news stories involved the separation of church and state and the role -- or lack thereof -- of belief in a higher power in domestic and international events.
Last month, the Religion Newswriters Association commissioned a poll of professional religion reporters to determine the 10 most significant religious events of the year. The study, which was taken before the horrific Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting (which many would argue has a place on the list), pinpointed some fascinating happenings -- important events that, in many ways, defined and transformed the year.
Photo Credit: AP
1. The number one ranked story among professional journalists was the Obama administration's contraceptive mandate and the battle with religious leaders over its implementation. TheBlaze has covered this issue extensively throughout the year and will continue to as lawsuits and challenges continue into 2013.
2. The second most significant religion story of 2012 was the startling finding that the "nones" are a rising group in America. According to surveys, one-in-five Americans report having no religious adherence. While not all of these individuals are atheists, they are unattached to a particular faith. And, to top it off, they comprise the fastest-growing "religious group" in the nation.
Moroccan women shout slogans during a demonstration against a film deemed offensive to Islam, on September 12, 2012 near the US consulate in Casablanca. A film at the center of anti-US protests in the Middle East which killed a diplomat was made by an Israeli-American who describes Islam as a 'cancer,' the Wall Street Journal reported. The movie, 'Innocence of Muslims,' was directed and produced by Sam Bacile, a 52-year-old real-estate developer from southern California who says Islam is a hateful religion.Credit: AFP/Getty Images
3. And considering the furor surrounding Benghazi, Libya, and the violence that broke out in the Middle East on and immediately following the Sept. 11 anniversary this year, the fact that the "Innocence of Muslims" film comes in third is no surprise. TheBlaze brought you the now-infamous trailer and a plethora of stories surrounding the movie that some blamed for anti-American violence in the region.
4. As for Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate who lost the 2012 presidential election to President Barack Obama, his Mormon faith made an appearance on the list, coming in as the fourth most important religion story of the year. In the end, despite conjecture, his religious views ended up having little impact on his candidacy, as evangelicals inevitably supported him on election day.
2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (Photo Credit: AP)
5. As for Monsignor William Lynn of Philadelphia, he distinguished himself as the first Catholic official in the nation to be found guilty in covering up child abuse at the hands of priests. And, as RNA notes, Bishop Robert Finn ended up being the first bishop to face the same fate. These abuse stories come in collectively as the fifth most impactful among religion reporters.
6 - 10. The five remaining events, which can be read about in detail over on the RNA web site include: the Vatican's criticism of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and the related fallout, the legalization of gay marriage in Maine, Maryland and Washington, the Episcopal Church's adoption of a trial ritual for blessing gay couples, the Sikh temple shooting and the Southern Baptist Convention's election of the Rev. Fred Luter, its first black president.
Stay tuned to 2013, when TheBlaze will, once again, bring you the most important and significant faith and religion stories and events.
Editor's Note: TheBlaze's Billy Hallowell participated in the RNA survey.