Religion Newswriters Association's Top Stories of 2011 Garner Controversy

The Religion Newswriters Association’s top stories for 2011 have been a cause for debate among the leaders and followers of the religious community.

The RNA has rated Osama Bin Laden's death as 2011's top story among religious leaders and followers. Bin Laden's death took the top spot among nine other notable stories for the year.

The RNA polls it members each year to compile a list of the top ten stories that garnered the most attention from the religious community. In total, 90 religion beat specialists participated in the polling process this year.

U.S. military forces killed Osama Bin Laden earlier this year. The ensuing story and in-depth reports about the al-Qaida leader's death sparked different emotions and debate among religious and non-religious people.

The opinions of religious individuals regarding Bin Laden's death are varied. Brian D. McLaren, founding pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church in Spencerville, Md., was displeased with the video footage of young Americans celebrating Bin Laden's death.

McLaren had blogged about his feelings toward the event back in May. "I can only say that this image does not reflect well on my country," he wrote. "Joyfully celebrating the killing of a killer who joyfully celebrated killing carries an irony that I hope will not be lost on us. Are we learning anything, or simply spinning harder in the cycle of violence?"

Tim Stevens, a pastor at Granger Community Church in Indiana, tweeted his feelings about Bin Laden's death. "Some tweets suggest we should feel guilty being happy about this, but I don't," he typed.

Another story that gained the most attention from the religious community is the topic of Bishop Robert W. Finn. This past October, Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph was indicted by a grand jury on misdemeanor child endangerment charges. His case concerned a cover-up of a priest accused of collecting child pornography.

Some supported Finn during this ordeal while others condemned him for his crime. Several Facebook users took to Finn's profile page to voice their opinions on the matter.

Facebook user Dona Gibbons posted, "God bless Bishop Finn, a good and faithful man. We pray for all our priests and religious who are under great attacks as never before."

"The nerve of some people!" proclaimed Facebook user Frank Emerson Vasquez. "If you're going to show support for anyone show it to the victims! If you think your telepathic powers will have any effect, focus them on the ones who's lives have been destroyed. Those who are defenseless. These children were defenseless! Children whose lives will be affected for many years to come!"

The Huffington Post has posted more of RNA's top religious stories for 2011:

- Controversial congressional hearings focused on American Muslims are held
- The Catholic Church introduces a new translation of the Roman Missal throughout the English-speaking world, making the first significant change to a liturgy since 1973
- The Presbyterian Church (USA) allows local option on ordination of partnered gay people
- California evangelist Harold Camping attracts attention with his predictions that the world would end in May and again in October
- The Personhood Initiative, designed to outlaw abortion by declaring a fetus a person, fails on Election Day in Mississippi, but advocates plan to try in other states