Every December, The Atlantic looks back on the previous year—to highlight not just the “big moments” but also the progression of “big ideas.” Below, the third of three installments looks at the year in religion coverage.
A contentious presidential race that reshuffled political coalitions put religion in the national spotlight in 2016. Many religious voters, feeling ostracized in a changing national landscape, chose to support Donald Trump—a candidate who hardly seemed to exemplify Christian morality, but who nevertheless promised to “make America great again.” Those who could not connect with Trump’s controversial rhetoric instead challenged his candidacy, dividing religious communities. Over the course of the year, Atlantic writers also delved into other prominent issues—from the battle over religious freedom to the country’s growing Islamophobia.
The Year’s Coverage
The Freedom to Choose: Religious liberty came to the fore of the national conversation after the Supreme Court’s landmark 2014 decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. In 2016, it produced a push for legislation that would give businesses, public bathrooms, and religious colleges the right to limit services to LGBT people. Emma Green followed these bills closely throughout the year. She covered the challenges state legislatures face working to protect LGBT civil-rights while also upholding religious freedom. In another story, she examined what the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia will mean for the future of religious-freedom decisions. Jonathan Merritt also weighed in, writing that the problems these laws claim to address don’t actually exist. Alan Noble offered a plea for accommodation between activists and religious colleges, and Alan Levinovitz argued that trigger warnings served to make campuses hostile to religious students.