News Release: Religion and Ethics

Mar. 23,  2011

Religion Dispatches Grants Help Boost Coverage of Islam, LGBT Issues

Religion Dispatches (RD), the online religion magazine based at Emory University, has received two grants totaling $200,000 to boost its coverage of Islam and issues related to religion and sexuality.

RD in partnership with the American Academy of Religion (AAR) received $100,000 from the Social Sciences Research Council (SSRC) for a collaborative project to build its coverage of Islam and prepare scholars to share their knowledge about Islam to a large and diverse readership.

Religion Dispatches

“We hope this initiative will lead to enhanced public writing about Islam from many voices disseminated through RD,” says Gary Laderman of Emory, director of the project. “Our goal is to help create a culture of public engagement by scholars of Islam that will be sustained well beyond the terms of the grant.”

The AAR is the world’s largest association for the academic study of religion, with 10,000 members at some 900 institutions of higher education. The joint grant with RD will support:

  • Hiring a contributing editor and a number of scholars of Islam to write materials for the magazine;
  • Workshops to train scholars of Islam on the new media landscape;
  • Creation of a media database; and
  • Joint meetings for scholars of Islam, journalists and media specialists. 

A second grant of $100,000 to RD from the Arcus Foundation will support expanding the range of writers and bloggers covering religion and sexuality for the magazine, says Laderman. RD also will develop communications strategies to bring these stories to wider audiences.

Ultimately, says Laderman, the goal is “to help influence public perspectives and social attitudes about the relationship between religion and sexuality, specifically the religious commitments and values of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) individuals.”

Four of RD’s 10 most popular pages in 2010 were LGBT stories. The most popular single page of 2009 was a story on marriage equality, receiving more than 100,000 hits. “No other publication is offering this type of leadership in bringing diverse voices on these timely and charged religious issues to the public,” says Laderman.

In 2010, its third year of operation, RD doubled its readership over 2009, and this year expects 2.9 million pageviews with more than one million unique visitors to site. The magazine’s readership is rising exponentially. A recent month saw more than 100,000 unique visitors, a 25 percent rise from the previous month, with 60 percent of those readers new to the site.

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