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Religion plays a critical role in shaping American life. Through grants to major cultural institutions and nonprofit news and media organizations around the country, we seek to foster better public understanding about the role religion has played and continues to play in the U.S. and across the globe and about the beliefs and practices of diverse religious communities.  While we seek to lift up the contributions that people of all religious faiths make to our greater civic well-being, we also encourage fair and accurate portrayals of both the negative and positive effects of religion on the world.

Cultural Institutions

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Religion and Cultural Institutions Initiative supports projects at 18 museums and other cultural institutions across the United States that foster deeper understanding of religious traditions, topics and themes. Most institutions are using grant funds to mount exhibitions and educational program that draw on artifacts within their institution’s collections and enhance and complement their current activities.LEARN MORE

National Museum of African American History and Culture, a museum of the Smithsonian Institution located in Washington, D.C., is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history and culture. The Endowment made a $10 million grant to the Smithsonian in to establish an endowed curator position in African American religion and to create the Center for the Study of African American Religious Experience. In 2010, the Endowment made a $10 million grant to help the Smithsonian establish the museum.LEARN MORE

National Museum of American History, a museum of the Smithsonian Institution located in Washington, D.C., is the most visited history museum in the United States. With support from a $5 million Endowment grant to the Smithsonian in 2015 and a $8 million grant in 2020, the National Museum of American History has established an endowed curator of American religious history and created the Center for the Public Understanding of Religion in American History to strengthen the museum’s exploration and incorporation of religion into its interpretation of American life. The museum also is preparing to build with Endowment support a dedicated gallery on religion in American history.LEARN MORE

International African American Museum (IAAM) is a museum being developed in Charleston, S.C., that will tell a multifaceted story about Americans of African descent and their contributions to American history and culture. The Endowment made a $10 million lead grant to the museum in 2017 that is helping the IAAM build its capacity to incorporate religion into its interpretations of American life and establish relationships with and develop programs for churches and other faith-based organizations. The museum is expected to open in 2022.LEARN MORE

Media

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Global Religion Journalism Initiative is a collaborative effort involving the Associated Press (AP), Religion News Service (RNS), and The Conversation US (TCUS). The organizations are working to strengthen reporting about religion and to increase significantly the number and reach of high-quality stories about religious faith and practice and the impact of religion in the United States and around the globe. The initiative was established in 2018 with a $4.9 million grant to Religion News Foundation, a philanthropic arm of RNS. Additional grants funding the initiative totaling $6.4 million were made in 2020 to RNF and to TCUS.LEARN MORE

Religion News Service (RNS), which is supported by the Religion News Foundation, is the nation’s most authoritative and widely used source for reporting about religion. It produces more than 4,000 articles and news reports per year that appear worldwide in more than 150 leading newspapers and magazines, broadcast organizations, religious publications, and an increasing number of online and social media outlets. Through its team of correspondents around the world, RNS provides news on religion and its intersections with political and cultural issues.LEARN MORE

The Conversation US is an independent, nonprofit news organization that produces and promotes evidence-based information, analysis and commentary on issues affecting society. The organization identifies talented academic researchers and encourages them to write timely articles and essays that draw on their research and bring fresh insights to contemporary issues and events.  Endowment support helps The Conversation US incorporate coverage of religion, ethics and philanthropy into its reporting.LEARN MORE

Prophetic Voices Project supports Journey Films, Inc. productions of documentaries about leading religious figures of the 20th century, including Dorothy Day, Howard Thurman, and Abraham Heschel. The documentaries are written and narrated by award-winning filmmaker Martin Doblmeier, who founded Journey Films to specialize in religion, faith and spirituality.  This effort, made possible through grants to Maryland Public Television, builds on previous Endowment-funded documentaries about the lives of Reinhold Niebuhr (An American Conscience: The Reinhold Niebuhr Story) and Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Bonhoeffer).LEARN MORE

On Being Project is a multimedia project that produces a weekly public radio program and supports an award-winning website that provides resources about the program’s themes as well as a repository of podcasts of current and past programs. Krista Tippett, the program’s host who is a theologically trained journalist and author, conducts extended interviews with religious leaders, writers, artists, theologians, musicians, activists and scientists, and explores with them the moral and spiritual dimensions of contemporary life.LEARN MORE

Everything Happens Initiative is a public media project that seeks to help people draw more fully on the wisdom of the Christian tradition to address questions about faith, suffering and God, and how to live with hope amid uncertainty. Hosted by Kate Bowler, a professor of history at Duke Divinity School, the project’s highly-acclaimed weekly podcast also offers articles, daily digital blessings, book club resources and congregational curricula. The Endowment supports this project with grants to Duke University.LEARN MORE

The Black Church: This is Our Story, This is Our Song is a four-hour documentary film series for PBS, hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.  The series premiered in February 2021 and traces the history of the Black church in America from the early 17th century to the present day. It was made possible by a grant to WETA in Washington, D.C.Learn More

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s D-Day Prayer will be added to the National World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. within the restored “Circle of Remembrance” at the Memorial in 2022.  Endowment support for adding the prayer will complete the Memorial as well as provide additional interpretative programming to explore the stories of men and women who served in WW II.  The Endowment supported this project with a grant to Friends of the National World War II Memorial. LEarn MORE

Resources

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The Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA) is a comprehensive online searchable resource that contains data files from significant studies about American religious life, including many Endowment-funded research projects. Collected through surveys and other studies of thousands of individuals and religious leaders, this information ranges from city, county, state and national data about church membership to portraits of the religious beliefs and practices of individuals. In addition, the Web-based resource provides maps of U.S. religious life, profiles of Christian denominations, learning modules about key religious issues, and other information to help users answer their questions about Christianity and American religion. The ARDA is now widely recognized as a primary means of access to important information about contemporary American religious life.LEARN MORE