Barbara Bradley Hagerty

Barbara Bradley Hagerty is the religion correspondent for NPR, reporting on the intersection of faith and politics, law, science and culture. Her New York Times best-selling book, "Fingerprints of God: The Search for the Science of Spirituality," was published by Riverhead/Penguin Group in May 2009. Among others, Barb has received the American Women in Radio and Television Award, the Headliners Award and the Religion Newswriters Association Award for radio reporting.

Before covering the religion beat, Barb was NPR's Justice Department correspondent between 1998 and 2003. Her billet included the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton, Florida's disputed 2000 election, terrorism, crime, espionage, wrongful convictions and the occasional serial killer. Barbara was the lead correspondent covering the investigation into the September 11 attacks. Her reporting was part of NPR's coverage that earned the network the 2001 George Foster Peabody and Overseas Press Club awards. She has appeared on the PBS programs Washington Week and The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.

Barb came to NPR in 1995, after attending Yale Law School on a one-year Knight Fellowship. From 1982-1993, she worked at The Christian Science Monitor as a newspaper reporter in Washington, as the Asia correspondent based in Tokyo for World Monitor (the Monitor's nightly television program on the Discovery Cable Channel) and finally as senior Washington correspondent for Monitor Radio.

Barb was graduated magna cum laude from Williams College in 1981 with a degree in economics, and has a masters in legal studies from Yale Law School.

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Religion
1:52 am
Fri May 11, 2012

Same Bible, Different Verdict On Gay Marriage

While liberal Christians argue the Bible should be interpreted as society changes, conservatives argue for a more literal reading, leading to differences in belief about God and homosexuality.
Jonathan Gibby Getty Images

Originally published on Thu March 27, 2014 8:43 am

When President Obama announced he now supports same-sex marriage, he cited his Christian faith.

"The thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it's also the Golden Rule, you know — treat others the way you would want to be treated," he said in his interview with ABC News.

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Religion
2:55 pm
Mon April 30, 2012

From Minister To Atheist: A Story Of Losing Faith

Teresa MacBain pauses while talking about her ongoing job search. She has been out of work since leaving her position as a Methodist pastor earlier this year.
Colin Hackley for NPR

Originally published on Thu January 30, 2014 8:02 pm

This is the first in a series of stories on losing faith.

Teresa MacBain has a secret, one she's terrified to reveal.

"I'm currently an active pastor and I'm also an atheist," she says. "I live a double life. I feel pretty good on Monday, but by Thursday — when Sunday's right around the corner — I start having stomachaches, headaches, just knowing that I got to stand up and say things that I no longer believe in and portray myself in a way that's totally false."

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Remembrances
3:23 pm
Sat April 21, 2012

Watergate Figure, Evangelist Chuck Colson Dies At 80

Chuck Colson, speaking outside the White House in 2003, has died. The former aide to President Nixon went to prison for his role in the Watergate scandal. He later became an influential evangelical Christian.
Susal Walsh AP

Originally published on Sat April 21, 2012 4:00 pm

Charles Colson, who served time in prison for his role in the Watergate scandal and later became an influential evangelical Christian, has died. Colson went from being one of the nation's most despised men to a hero of conservative Christians.

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Religion
2:22 am
Mon April 16, 2012

Christians Debate: Was Jesus For Small Government?

House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., with his 2012 budget plan. Ryan cites his Catholic faith in justifying his proposed cuts to social safety-net programs.
Jacquelyn Martin AP

Originally published on Mon April 16, 2012 8:45 am

What would Jesus do with the U.S. economy?

That's a matter of fierce debate among Christians — with conservatives promoting a small-government Jesus and liberals seeing Jesus as an advocate for the poor.

After the House passed its budget last month, liberal religious leaders said the Republican plan, which lowered taxes and cut services to the poor, was an affront to the Gospel — and particularly Jesus' command to care for the poor.

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Religion
3:38 pm
Tue April 10, 2012

A Church Divided: Ruling Ends Va.'s Episcopal Battle

The St. Stephen's Church in Heathsville, Va., has been at the center of an ugly custody battle between the St. Stephen's Episcopal Church and the newly affiliated St. Stephen's Anglican Church.
Barbara Bradley Hagerty for NPR

Originally published on Tue April 10, 2012 7:19 pm

On a bright Sunday morning in the tiny town of Heathsville, Va., Jeffrey Cerar surveys the church he's preached in for the past 15 years — its 130-year-old wooden pews, its stained glass windows, its paschal candles, its cross.

"Virtually everything you see here is going to stay; the high altar, the credence table, the hymnals and books of common prayer will all stay," he says. "The Bibles will go with us."

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Law
2:19 am
Wed April 4, 2012

Gay Marriage Lawsuit Presses For Survivor Benefits

Herbert Burtis' spouse, John Ferris (left), died four years ago. When Burtis went to the Social Security office to apply for survivor benefits, the clerk told him the federal government did not recognize his marriage.
Courtesy of Herbert Burtis

Herbert Burtis met the person he wanted to marry in college, in 1948. But since the object of his affection was another man, they had to wait until 2004 for the ceremony, when Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriages.

"It's a long engagement," Burtis says, laughing. "We thought it was time that we made each other honest people."

His spouse, John Ferris, died four years ago. When Burtis went to the Social Security office to apply for survivor benefits, the clerk told him the federal government did not recognize his marriage.

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Religion
4:44 pm
Fri March 23, 2012

Thousands Rally For Religious Freedom Nationwide

Protesters rally for religious freedom in front of Philadelphia's Independence Hall on Friday. Rallies took place nationwide to protest the mandate that some religious organizations cover the cost of contraception.
Alex Brandon AP

Originally published on Fri March 23, 2012 5:50 pm

Across the country, thousands of people skipped lunch Friday to protest what they see as a threat to religious liberties in the United States.

The protesters' specific complaint was the birth control mandate in the new health care law, but the discontent runs far deeper.

It didn't take much for the Rev. Pat Mahoney, an evangelical minister, to warm up the crowd in Washington. He gazed out at hundreds of people who filled the plaza in front of Kathleen Sebelius' office at the Department of Health and Human Services.

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Religion
3:59 am
Fri March 23, 2012

'Woodstock For Atheists': A Moment For Nonbelievers

Organizers expect about 30,000 people to attend the Reason Rally over the weekend, a celebration of atheists and nonbelievers.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Thousands of people are expect to descend on the Mall in Washington, D.C., on Saturday to celebrate not believing in God. It's being called a sort of "Woodstock for Atheists," a chance for atheists to show their power in numbers and change their image.

The "Reason Rally" could attract up to 30,000 people; organizer David Silverman says it marks a coming-of-age for nonbelievers.

"We'll look back at the Reason Rally as one of the game-changing events when people started to look at atheism and look at atheists in a different light," Silverman says.

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Rick Santorum
4:34 pm
Wed February 29, 2012

Is Rick Santorum Missing JFK's Point On Religion?

Then-Sen. John F. Kennedy participates in a question-and-answer session with the Ministers' Association of Greater Houston on Sept. 12, 1960, in Houston. In a speech to the group, Kennedy addressed concerns about his Catholicism and his run for the presidency.
Houston Chronicle AP

When GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum was growing up, he says, John F. Kennedy was a hero in his Catholic home.

In a speech last year, he said he had always heard glowing reports of Kennedy's speech about religion to Protestant ministers in 1960.

"And then very late in my political career, I had the opportunity to read the speech and I almost threw up," Santorum told a group of college students last year. "You should read the speech. In my opinion, it was the beginning of the secular movement of politicians to separate their faith from the public square."

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All Tech Considered
3:11 pm
Mon February 27, 2012

To Get Out The Vote, Evangelicals Try Data Mining

Kay Clymer spends hours each day urging fellow Christians to vote. She finds their phone numbers through a database created by the company United In Purpose.
Steve Brown WOSU

Originally published on Mon February 27, 2012 6:36 pm

When Bill Dallas first heard that 15 to 20 million Christians in the U.S. are not registered to vote, he couldn't believe it.

"Initially, it surprised me. And then I thought to myself, 'Wait a minute, I'm not registered,' Dallas says. "Why wasn't I registered? Well, because I didn't think my vote made a difference."

Identifying Christians With Data Points

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Law
4:33 pm
Thu February 16, 2012

Pa. Priest Faces Trial On Child Abuse Cover-Up Charges

Originally published on Tue February 21, 2012 2:25 pm

Between 1992 and 2004, Monsignor William Lynn was the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's point person for allegations of clerical abuse. When he heard a claim, he was supposed to investigate and, if warranted, remove or turn the priest over to police.

But as two grand juries reported in 2005 and 2011, that often didn't happen.

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Religion
3:44 pm
Fri February 10, 2012

Catholics Split On Obama's Birth Control Decision

Archbishop Thomas Wenski, shown celebrating Mass at the Cathedral of St. Mary in Miami last month, says the new birth control policy is a "smoke screen."
Lynne Sladky AP

Originally published on Fri February 10, 2012 9:21 pm

Reaction from the Catholic community to the Obama administration's decision to revise its birth control policy was swift and mixed.

Under the new rule, employers with a religious objection to offering contraceptive coverage as part of their health care plans wouldn't have to provide it directly. Instead, the requirement to provide that coverage free of charge would fall on the insurance companies.

Some Catholics believe the president's new rule resolves the religious liberty issues. But others, including key bishops, say it is smoke and mirrors.

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Religion
3:28 pm
Thu February 9, 2012

Bishops Stand Strong Against Birth Control Mandate

A bishop grasps his pectoral cross during the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore on Nov. 14, 2011.
Kevin Lamarque Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Thu February 9, 2012 5:15 pm

The Obama administration has drawn fierce criticism over a new rule requiring religiously affiliated charities, universities and hospitals to provide contraceptive coverage in their insurance plans. Now, that mandate has created a stalemate between American Catholic bishops and the White House that shows few signs of easing.

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Religion
2:42 pm
Tue February 7, 2012

A Pulpit For The Masses: YouTube, Christians Click

Created by liberal Christians, the YouTube video "Tea Party Jesus" is a spoof on conservative politics.
AmericanValuesNet/YouTube

Originally published on Tue February 7, 2012 5:26 pm

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Election 2012
11:01 pm
Thu January 12, 2012

Evangelical Leaders Struggle To Crown A Candidate

Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, testifies before Congress on July 14, 2010. He thinks religious conservatives should try to rally behind a candidate other than Mitt Romney.
Alex Brandon AP

Rick Santorum was fresh off his surprise showing in the Iowa caucuses and fielding questions on a radio program, when a caller challenged the Republican presidential candidate on his overt religiosity.

"He said, 'We don't need a Jesus candidate. We need an economic candidate,' " Santorum recalled later, at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire. "And my answer to that was, 'We always need a Jesus candidate, right?' "

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Law
2:00 pm
Tue January 10, 2012

Court Strikes Down Okla. Sharia Ban

A federal court has ruled that Oklahoma cannot implement a state ban on Islamic Sharia law. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a previous ruling blocking Oklahoma's Sharia ban.

Religion
5:10 am
Sun January 8, 2012

Has Obama Waged A War On Religion?

Some political and religious leaders say there is a White House-led war against religion.
Joe Drivas Getty Images

Originally published on Tue March 18, 2014 2:35 pm

Americans' religious liberties are under attack — or at least that's what some conservatives say.

Newt Gingrich warns the U.S. is becoming a secular country, which would be a "nightmare." Rick Santorum says there's a clash between "man's laws and God's laws." And in a campaign ad, Rick Perry decried what he called "Obama's war on religion," saying there is "something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can't openly ... pray in school."

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Religion
2:00 pm
Mon January 2, 2012

Disaffected Episcopalians Offered A New Home

The Vatican announced Sunday an arrangement to allow disaffected Episcopalian congregations in the United States to join the Roman Catholic church. The arrangement will allow an exemption to priestly celibacy for former Episcopal priests who are married.

Newt Gingrich
11:01 pm
Wed December 21, 2011

Gingrich's Catholic Journey Began With Third Wife

Any discussion of Newt Gingrich's journey to Catholicism begins with his wife.

"I have always been a very spiritual person," Callista Gingrich told the Christian Broadcasting Network this year. "I start each day with a prayer, and pray throughout the day, because I am grateful for the many blessings that God has bestowed upon us."

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It Was A Good Year For...
6:19 pm
Tue December 20, 2011

Hell On Fire In 2011, Thanks To Film And Books

Hell was much written and thought about in 2011. In this 18th-century engraving accompanying Dante's Inferno, Virgil leads the poet past souls writhing in torment in the River Styx.
Hulton Archive Getty Images

In 2011, hell was a hot topic, from Hollywood to New York Times bestsellers. In fact, this year has seen an incendiary debate about the existence and contents of hell.

The year began with an epic battle between a priest and Satan, with Anthony Hopkins playing a demon possessed priest in the movie, The Rite. The Hollywood glimpse of the underworld came and went without much notice by moviegoers. But then, another form of hell on earth grabbed the headlines. Judgment Day would soon be upon us.

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Religion
11:01 pm
Mon December 19, 2011

Vatican Declares Boy's Recovery A 'Miracle'

Barbara Bradley Hagerty NPR

Originally published on Tue December 20, 2011 10:57 am

In February 2006, 5-year-old Jake Finkbonner fell and hit his head while playing basketball at his school in Ferndale, Wash. Soon, he developed a fever and his head swelled. His mother, Elsa, rushed him to Seattle Children's Hospital, where the doctors realized Jake was battling a flesh-eating bacterium called Strep A.

"It traveled all around his face, his scalp, his neck, his chest," she recalls, "and why it didn't travel to his brain or his eyeballs or his heart? He was protected."

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Remembrances
11:32 am
Fri December 16, 2011

For Hitchens, In Life And Death, An Unaware Cosmos

Christopher Hitchens, shown here in 2010, began a lifelong battle with a God he didn't believe in when he was just 9 years old.
David Levenson Getty Images

Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 9:29 pm

Writer Christopher Hitchens, who died on Thursday from complications of cancer at the age of 62, leaves behind some 18 books and countless essays on politics and public figures. But his most lasting legacy may be his atheism and his long-running duel with what he considered the world's most dangerous threat: religion.

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Newt Gingrich
4:16 pm
Thu December 8, 2011

Why Some Evangelicals Back Thrice-Wed Gingrich

Newt Gingrich, shown with his wife, Callista Gingrich, attends a pre-debate rally sponsored by the Faith and Freedom Coalition earlier this year in Florida. The thrice-married former House speaker, who cheated on his first two wives and was punished by the House for ethical violations, is now outperforming family man Mitt Romney among Iowa's evangelicals.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Fri December 9, 2011 11:37 am

One of the puzzles of the Republican presidential campaign is Newt Gingrich's appeal to religious conservatives. The irony is that Gingrich, a Catholic convert who has had three marriages, is outperforming Romney, a lifelong Mormon and family man. In fact, less than a month before the Iowa caucuses, the former speaker of the House has three times the support of evangelicals in that state that Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, does.

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Religion
11:01 pm
Thu November 24, 2011

New Catholic Mass Already Causing A Stir

This weekend, the words and music of the English-language Mass will be different.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Mon November 28, 2011 6:33 am

This weekend, Catholics may experience a little surprise when they attend Mass. The words and music are different, thanks to the first major change of the English-language Mass in more than 40 years.

For many practicing Catholics, this will be a major adjustment.

So on a recent Sunday, the Rev. Chester Snyder of St. Joseph's church in Mechanicsburg, Pa., did a trial run through the new liturgy with his parishioners.

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Law
11:01 pm
Tue November 15, 2011

Penn State Scandal Emboldens Other Abuse Victims

The man said the advances began when he was 10 years old. He was a fourth-grader and an altar boy at a Catholic school in Hudson, Mass. He said the priest would try to touch the altar boys when they were putting on their robes, and he'd invite them to the rectory, one at a time.

"He'd want to show us pornographic magazines, and ask us to take our pants down, and he'd take his pants down and expose himself and things like that," he said.

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