Recipients of Knight Grants for Reporting on Religion and American Public Life Announced

The USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism announced today the recipients of the 2012 Knight Grants for Reporting on Religion and American Public Life. Among many outstanding applications, six projects were chosen to receive grants between $5,000 and $20,000.

“Were excited to support probing journalism on immigration, teen pregnancy and health care reform,” said Diane Winston, Knight Chair in Media and Religion at USC Annenberg. “These projects illustrate the impact of religion on major issues facing the nation.”

Knight Grants will support the following projects:

Veteran reporter Jason Berry will look at the current debate over the role and responsibilities of Roman Catholic nuns. As sisters assume a greater role in parish life, their own numbers are falling. Smaller numbers of nuns juggle work in social ministries, local parish support and provide elder care for their increasingly elderly ranks. In recent months, they also have been criticized by Vatican officials for prioritizing social justice work over issues of abortion and contraception. On joint assignment from GlobalPost and the National Catholic Reporter, Berry will report from American parishes and Vatican City on the challenges facing American nuns.

Since 2010, 24 states have proposed or passed bans on Shariah, the Islamic code of ethics and laws. Traveling to meet with American Muslims from New Jersey, Michigan and California, Daniel Burke, national correspondent for Religion News Service, will answer the question begged by the anti-Shariah movement: “What is Shariah?”

While gays and lesbians experience ever  greater acceptance in diverse religious communities, the same cannot be said for transgendered and gender non-conforming individuals. Becky Garrison, whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, U.S. Catholic and the Revealer, will report on the challenges facing religious leaders who reach out to this marginalized group.

GlobalPost’s Kevin Grant will report on the movement to pass a federal DREAM Act to legalize undocumented immigrants. The movement has found allies in Catholic clergy members, who are using moral and spiritual arguments to pressure legislators into action; the evangelical National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, which is challenging the Obama administration to go further than granting amnesty to young immigrants; and the thousands of young, largely Hispanic immigration advocates, dubbed “DREAMers,” who have built grassroots campaigns rooted in church communities that combine modern social media strategies with tactics reminiscent of the 20th century Catholic worker movement.

Andy Kopsa will travel to Mississippi, which is both the nation’s most religious state and the one with the highest teen pregnancy rate. To address this issue, the Mississippi Legislature passed HB 999 mandatingfor the first time ever, that sex education be taught in public schools. Kopsa, who has written for Ms. Blog and Alternet among other outlets, will profile communities in Oxford and Jackson as they seek to fulfill the state’s new mandate amidst a significant religious backlash.

Sarah Posner, senior editor of Religion Dispatches, will report on the claim by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and their allies that the recently upheld Affordable Care Act contains infringements of their religious liberties beyond the contraception mandate as well as their plan to push for further “conscience” exemptions from the healthcare law. With one-sixth of all hospital patients being treated in a Catholic hospital, their success or failure will have ramifications for a large swath of the American public.

During the nine-month period of the award, grantees will report and develop stories for delivery on multiple platforms. Grantees may be invited to present their work at USC, hold master classes for journalism students, and give public lectures for the community.

The Knight Grants for Reporting on Religion and American Public Life are funded through the generous support of the Ford Foundation.


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