In 2012, faith was a persistent theme in the presidential race, and moral and ethical questions surrounded budget debates and mass killings:
• Gun violence became a new "pro-life" issue following shootings in Aurora, Colo.; Oak Creek, Wis.; and Newtown, Conn.
• One in 5 Americans (19 percent) now claim no religious affiliation, up from 6 percent in 1990.
• Nuns on a bus found themselves facing a Vatican crackdown and accusations that the umbrella group of most U.S. sisters was embracing "radical feminist themes" and not working strongly enough against abortion and same-sex marriage.
• Republican Mitt Romney made history as the first Mormon to win a major party's presidential nomination.
• Voters in Washington, Maryland and Maine approved gay marriage; Minnesota voters rejected a constitutional amendment to ban it. North Carolina approved a constitutional ban while President Barack Obama endorsed same-sex marriage.
• In the name of religious freedom, an unexpected entrant into the 2012 campaign was a fierce debate over birth control, centered around Roman Catholic and evangelical resistance to the Obama administration's mandate for free employee coverage of contraception.
• As Roman Catholics marked the 10th anniversary of the clergy sex abuse scandal that erupted in Boston, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was confronted with two landmark criminal convictions.
• New "firsts" in America's religious tapestry — neither major party ticket included a white Protestant, the Southern Baptist Convention elected its first black president, and a Buddhist was elected to the Senate and a Hindu to the House.
© 2013 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers