Law, Rights and Religion Project staff are often called upon to share expertise and policy analysis. See a list of quotes below highlighting our work.
The Law, Rights, and Religion Project maintains an up-to-date list of our media mentions, wherein the work of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project and our scholars and team members are highlighted in academic and popular media.
For Articles, Op-Eds and Papers written by our team members, please access our Articles page.
If you are a member of the press and seek to contact one of our team members for insight on an article or project you are working on, you may contact the Law, Rights, and Religion Project administrator at (212) 854-0167 or by e-mail to LawRightsReligion@law.columbia.edu.
For the most up-to-date information about the Law, Rights, and Religion Project, The Racial Justice Program, and related programs and events, sign up for our Mailing List.
Media Mentions 2022
John Kruzel, The Hill
It was clear a Supreme Court with six conservative justices was going to move to the right. It just wasn’t clear how far it would go or how fast.
On Friday, the picture came into focus as the high court’s supermajority issued a landmark decision erasing the nearly 50-year-old constitutional right to abortion by overturning Roe v. Wade.
Katherine Franke, a law professor at Columbia University, said the decision had far-reaching implications for religious liberty rights. Prior to Tuesday’s ruling, she said, a state choosing not to fund a religious organization was generally considered a lawful form of neutrality.
Susan Rinkunas, Jezebel
Liz Reiner Platt, an attorney and the director of The Law, Rights, and Religion Project at Columbia University, said that, legally speaking, [The Satanic Temple’s] religious abortion ritual is far from a slam dunk for members looking to avoid restrictions. “If they’re positioning this as some sort of done deal or something—an exemption that’s already secured—that would not be correct,” she told Jezebel.
Reiner Platt was similarly suspect of TST’s May 5 tweet that “in states that outlaw abortion but grant exceptions for instances of incest and rape...TST members should be permitted a religious exemption to perform TST’s religious abortion ritual.” As she said, “the word ‘should’ is certainly doing a lot of work there.”
Reiner Platt said she expects many other kinds of religious challenges to abortion laws, which might argue, for instance, that people are religiously prohibited from bringing a child into the world that they cannot care for.
The US Supreme Court’s latest church-state ruling will have implications far beyond Maine, requiring states to include religious groups in taxpayer-funded school choice programs.
“What it says—really for the first time—is that a failure to subsidize religious practices or religious entities when you are also subsidizing secular versions of those activities amounts to discrimination on the basis of religion,” said Columbia Law School’s Katherine Franke.
“One wonders whether just providing public education itself, and not subsidizing religious education, might be the next horizon,” Franke said.
Jillian Kestler-D'Amours, Al Jazeera
“I think faith is going to be a really big component of post-Roe legal strategies, but also just generally organising strategies,” said Elizabeth Reiner Platt, director of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project at Columbia Law School.
She pointed to the key role faith leaders played in helping women access abortion services before Roe, including the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion, a group of Christian ministers and Jewish rabbis that offered abortion counselling and referrals beginning in the late 1960s.
“There have been various [legal] claims that there is a religious obligation, either to provide [abortion] counselling and support, or to provide the medical care itself, or a religious right in some of the cases to access abortion for one’s self,” Platt also told Al Jazeera.
There are two primary ways to make religious freedom arguments on abortion, Platt said. A person can argue they have a religious obligation to do something, but that a law or policy punishes them for acting on their beliefs, or they can argue that a law or policy violates church-state separation.
That latter principle is set out in the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which bars the government from passing any law “respecting an establishment of religion”.
“There’s certainly been more decided on that in the federal system,” Platt said, pointing to a ruling (Harris v McRae) that she said ultimately found that “just because a statute happens to coincide with the tenets of some religion doesn’t make it inherently religious”.
Platt said one way to prove a law or policy is “theologically motivated” would be to point to statements lawmakers have made to justify them on religious terms.
“I certainly would not think that this [Florida lawsuit] is going to be the last case that we see that contains claims about peoples’ faith beliefs – because the majority of religious people support abortion rights, and there’s a really long history of faith-based activism,” said Platt.
She added that while it is difficult to say whether the Florida challenge will be successful, the case should be taken seriously because the US has “incredibly expansive protection for religious liberty at the state level”.
“And so I don’t think we can be too quick to dismiss these arguments.”
Richard Dahl, FindLaw
Columbia Law School's Law, Rights, and Religion Project suggests that the climate for religion-based challenges from abortion-rights organizations may be warming up.
"Opponents of abortion have claimed that overturning Roe will reduce religious conflicts involving abortion. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most people who get abortions are religious, people of faith from many different religious traditions support the right to abortion, and there is a long and rich tradition of faith-based activism for abortion rights."
Pearl Stewart, Diverse Issues in Higher Education
Columbia Law School issued an advisory from its think tank, the Law, Rights and Religion Project, which includes a statement from Dr. Katherine Franke, the James L. Dohr Professor of Law.
“While [Justice Alito's draft opinion in Dobbs] notes that the decision does not reach other issues such as contraception, same-sex marriage, and laws criminalizing same-sex sex, Justice Alito’s draft opinion kicks the constitutional legs out from under the decisions recognizing those rights, and it’s hard to see upon what constitutional principles they will rest if this opinion becomes law,” says Franke in a statement issued by Columbia’s Center for Gender and Sexuality Law, where she serves as director. “Should this opinion be officially issued by the Court, it will eliminate not only constitutional protections for abortion, but well-settled legal principles on which basic personal rights have rested for over 60 years.”
Melody Schreiber, The Guardian
Personal beliefs can even contravene the dictums of established religions; for instance, Catholics for Choice believe they have a religious duty to protect reproductive health despite the Catholic church’s stance against abortion.
“You don’t have to be a member of an organized religion,” said Katherine Franke, a professor of law at Columbia University and the faculty director of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project. “Your religious beliefs could be your own idiosyncratic beliefs. They have to just be religious to you.”
Jack Jenkins, Religion News Service
“I see a potential collision course between extremely expansive abortion restrictions and an increasingly expansive right to religious exemptions from other laws,” said Elizabeth Reiner Platt, director of Columbia Law School’s Law, Rights and Religion Project, which hosted a December forum titled “A Religious Right to Abortion?”
“There are some organizations doing great religious liberty work that talk more in terms of civil rights, antisemitism, fighting religious discrimination, ensuring church-state separation or pluralism — things like that,” Platt said. “But they are extremely outgunned by a handful of organizations that very explicitly focus on religious liberty and have incredible resources to advance their version of what that means.”
Kelsey Dallas, Deseret
In response to the leak, many religious groups and individual people of faith have shared their support for abortion rights. They’re working to correct the common assumption that all religions are rooting for Roe to be overturned, said Elizabeth Reiner Platt, director of the Law, Rights and Religion Project at Columbia Law School.
“There’s both a very rich history and current practice of folks seeing abortion care as a religious and moral calling,” she said.
In the months and years ahead, those beliefs could be cited in lawsuits against abortion restrictions. Someone who believes that their faith requires them to get an abortion or that it requires them to provide or facilitate an abortion for someone else could use religious freedom protections to challenge newly implemented policies, Platt said.
“The idea that overturning Roe is going to temper religious conflict is certainly not the case,” she said.
Rachel Kranson, Washington Post
As the Law, Rights and Religion project at Columbia Law School has argued, the court’s recent opinions have “created a hierarchy of constitutional rights, with religious rights at the top.”
Katie Collins Scott, National Catholic Reporter
"Bearing Faith: The Limits of Catholic Health Care for Women of Color," a report published in 2018 by the Law, Rights, and Religion Project at Columbia Law School, links the directives with racial disparities in health care while also asserting treatments for miscarriages and extrauterine pregnancies are of particular concern under the directives.
It found in many states Black women are more likely than white women to access Catholic health care institutions. Because of this, the authors argue, Black women disproportionally bear the harmful repercussions of certain directives.
The report says that the directives are interpreted or enforced in a range of ways, but that to avoid abortion procedures, some providers have not adequately treated women who were miscarrying or experiencing ectopic pregnancies — when a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus.
"According to at least one provider at a Catholic hospital, such refusals have led to tubal rupture," reads the report.
Elizabeth Reiner Platt, Religion Dispatches
Over two years ago, I and a team of researchers set out to learn how policies on abortion at Protestant hospitals in the South impact the medical care that pregnant patients—including those with serious health conditions—receive. What we found surprised us: not only were limits on abortion pervasive at Christian hospitals, but many secular hospitals in the South had similar restrictions.
Doctors told us how these policies limited the treatments they could provide to pregnant patients with conditions ranging from leukemia to kidney disease. After reading the Supreme Court’s draft opinion that stands to overturn Roe v. Wade this June, it’s clear that our findings will have a new relevancy far beyond what we initially aimed to study. To understand what medical care after Roe will be like if you’re pregnant, look to the hospitals that have long banned abortion—and add the threat of criminal punishment.
Paul Handley, Yahoo News
"Roe v. Wade was decided 50 years ago, and the right wing began to resist it and launched an enormous backlash immediately," said Columbia Law School Professor Katherine Franke.
Their stunning success at the Supreme Court, she said, represents a "radical retrenchment" of three generations of constitutional law.
Dahlia Lithwick, Slate
A few months ago, professor Katherine Franke suggested, in a conversation on my podcast Amicus, that the current Supreme Court seems to be working its way toward what she called a “tiered” system of constitutional rights, one that would, in any conflict arising between the two, almost unerringly privilege religious liberty over every other right or interest, whether it was public health, or LGBTQ dignitary interests, or reproductive freedom. She suggested that because religion is explicitly named in the Constitution and those other freedoms or values are not, religion will win every time. More striking still was Franke’s claim that as a result of decadeslong efforts to privatize social welfare, justice, and health care, and with religious entities rushing in to fill those spaces, even the remaining structures of the public sector will always appear to be anemic, anonymized, and collective.
As she put it, in a conversation about abortion rights, “we have delegated to the private sector—largely religious or faith-based organizations—the job of thinking morally, and now all government is there for, all the public sector is there for, is a coordination function.” She added that “when you have the thick morality of religion up against a thin administrative state that doesn’t have any commitment to a good society, the public sector will always lose.”
Katherine Franke, The Nation
We documented in a recent report that there is almost no limit to the contexts in which religious objectors will try to avoid laws that apply to everyone else, including laws regulating child abuse, workplace sexual harassment, union organizing, equal pay and minimum wages, and public health. Not to mention the fact that LGBTQ people are already at an increased risk of experiencing discrimination in their daily lives, to say nothing of the disproportionate toll the pandemic has taken on the community.
Katherine Stewart, The New York Times
These facts may help explain some alarming trends in maternal health, particularly among women of color. According to a 2018 report, “Bearing Faith: The Limits of Catholic Health Care for Women of Color,” by the The Law, Rights, and Religion Project at Columbia Law School, in conjunction with Public Health Solutions, “Pregnant women of color are more likely than their white counterparts to receive reproductive health care dictated by bishops rather than medical doctors.” America’s maternal mortality rate is startling high among nations in the developed world, and Black women are roughly three times as likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause as white women.
“In many states women of color disproportionately receive reproductive health care restricted by ERDs,” the authors wrote, before suggesting that this “should be evaluated against the backdrop of vastly inferior health care delivered to women of color across the board.”
Religious restrictions on maternal medicine are not exclusive to Catholic hospitals. In a 2021 report, “The Southern Hospitals Report: Faith Culture, and Abortion Bans in the U.S. South,” the results of a two-year investigation also by the Law, Rights, and Religion Project, researchers concluded that Protestant and even secular hospitals across the South delay or deny care to women facing severe pregnancy complications at the behest of anti-choice administrators or boards, community pressure, or fear of losing private or public funds.
“Our research reveals that access to abortion, including during medical emergencies, is even more severely curtailed than already restrictive state laws might suggest,” the authors wrote. If Roe v. Wade is overturned or weakened, state abortion bans “will make hospital restrictions on abortion even more significant, as patients facing serious pregnancy complications or underlying health conditions, such as cancer, will no longer have any legal alternative for abortion care in their state.”
Ashton Pittman, Mississippi Free Press
During the SACReD Gathering on Jan. 26, Columbia Law School’s Law, Rights and Religion Project Director Elizabeth Reiner Platt explored the intersection of reproductive rights and religious liberty, including in the First Amendment, which preserves both the free exercise of religion and makes it clear that government officials cannot use their positions to impose and establish their own personal religious beliefs.
“Right now, the doctrine of the free-exercise clause is in a time of flux,” she said. “It’s going through this rapid change under an extremely conservative Supreme Court.” She noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has sided with conservative Christians in a number of “religious freedom” cases over the past decade.
“Far-right Christian activists have completely reframed our understanding of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but also religious freedom more generally,” Platt said. “They have just captured the entire dialgoue around religious liberty to prefer the protection of conservative religious beliefs about sex, marriage and reproduction.”
Mike Ferguson, Presbyterian News Service
A panel convened by Union Presbyterian Seminary’s Center for Faith, Justice and Reconciliation spent 90 minutes Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, discussing the importance of protecting religious freedom while remembering King.
Among their discussion topics: a 2020 report co-written by Platt, McKenzie and others, “All Faiths and None: A Guide to Protecting Religious Liberty for Everyone.” Download the report here. A media guide, “Asking Hard Questions About Religious Freedom,” is available here.
Many people who file a religious freedom lawsuit think their situation represents “an egregious violation” of their freedom, Platt said. “But who else is involved here?” The Law, Rights and Religion Project and other organizations “seek to ask the larger questions about how do we live in a complicated, pluralistic world in a way we can thrive,” Platt said.
Katherine Franke, The Nation
Excerpt: In a series of recent cases, the new conservative majority has accomplished a radical realignment in the way fundamental rights are recognized and enforced. The significance of this revolution cannot be overemphasized. Unlike previous decisions that shrunk the scope of equal rights, the court has now ruled that some rights are first-tier rights (religious liberty, gun rights, and property rights), while all others (such as public health, reproductive health, race/sex/LGBTQ equality) enjoy a lower constitutional status. It will protect the rights of LGBTQ people as long as they don’t conflict with another person’s religious liberty. That’s how we won the marriage equality case, but lost the case challenging Catholic Social Services’ claim that it had a First Amendment right to discriminate against LGBTQ people when paid by the City of Philadelphia to vet couples to serve as foster parents.
It gets worse. When the governors of California and New York scrambled to implement limits on public gatherings early in the pandemic, religious groups resisted, saying their right to pray together supersedes the public interest in controlling the virus’s spread. Here too the religious objectors found favor with the court: The right to pray unmasked and in person was protected even during a global health crisis. In these cases the court honed a new, radical approach to religious liberty—if a law contains any secular exceptions, it must allow religious exemptions; otherwise it discriminates against religion.
Media Mentions 2021
Joseph Bushman, Bollyinside
A FEDERAL JUDGE in Tucson, Arizona, on Monday overturned four humanitarian assistance volunteers’ convictions on religious freedom grounds, declaring that the government had adopted a “gruesome logic” that criminalises “interfering with a border police tactic of death deterrence.”
Katherine Franke, a law professor at Columbia, where she is faculty director of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project, called the reversal “fantastic.” Last year, Franke and her colleagues published a report illustrating how the federal government has routinely sided with right-wing or conservative causes in religious freedom cases. The law professor has followed the No More Deaths cases closely, filing motions in support of RFRA defenses. “The lower court’s opinion was so horrible just as a matter of legal reasoning, that it was really nice to see the judge apply a thorough and careful analysis of the religious liberty claim,” Franke told The Intercept. While she anticipates a government appeal, Franke said Monday’s reversal provides a solid foundation for applying RFRA in similar legal contexts.
Dahlia Lithwick, Slate
On a recent episode of Amicus, Dahlia Lithwick spoke with Katherine Franke, director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia University and faculty director of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project at Columbia Law School, about what’s at stake in the Supreme Court’s new abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health. The two discussed how a secular framework is being applied to religious argument, the Roberts court’s highest priority, and what will ensue if this case leads to the toppling of Roe v. Wade.
Daniel Breen and Remington Miller, NPR
[Elizabeth Reiner] Platt says some hospitals have ethics committees, which sometimes include religious leaders, that are focused solely on deciding whether or not to perform an abortion. She says patients who are denied abortions in hospital settings often don’t have any avenues for legal recourse.
“The patient may not even know that they are not being offered a course of treatment that might be offered at a different facility. If they come in and their water has broken at 16 weeks, and they’re told ‘There’s nothing we can do for you,’ I think there’s not necessarily a reason not to take that at face value unless they’re told to go to another facility where an abortion might be available to them,” Platt said.
Dahlia Lithwick, Amicus Podcast (Slate)
Dahlia is joined by professor Katherine Franke, director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia University and the founder and faculty director of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project at Columbia Law School. Professor Franke helps us examine how the Supreme Court’s conservative majority’s views on religious liberty undergirded Wednesday’s arguments, are set to influence the court’s jurisprudence, and will likely alter your constitutional rights.
Sanya Mansoor, Time Magazine
Sharing advice on how to tailor responses to employer questions about religious exemptions could be a way to game the religious exemptions system, some experts say. Relying on templates instead of one’s own articulation of their specific beliefs undercuts the question of sincerity, which employers are trying to gauge. “It’s legitimate for an employer to say, ‘Well, are these your words?’” says Katherine Franke, a law professor at Columbia University and faculty director of the Law, Rights and Religion Project. “If it looks like the person is just parroting something that they copied off the internet, the employer can say no; we won’t give you an exemption.”
Vetting each exemption claim can be time consuming. “There will be employers who just don’t want to get in the business of evaluating religious exemptions, and so they will just do a box check,” Franke says. Employees have long been able to request religious exemptions to policies such as dress codes or being required to work on certain days, but these can be approved more easily because they don’t affect other employees. “[If companies] have outbreaks of COVID in their workforce because they’ve been overly generous in granting exemptions,” says Franke, employers could face litigation and complaints from other employees who get sick because they were exposed at work.
With the new omicron variant, the need for a rigorous test for religious exemptions is even more urgent, experts say. “This is serious business. This is not a theoretical exercise. People are going to die,” Franke says. “If all the rest of us have to bear the weight, the public health risk of overly broad religious exemptions—that’s a public health catastrophe.”
Rebekah Kohlhepp, Patheos
This week, Columbia Law School’s Law, Rights, and Religion Project released what they’re calling The Southern Hospitals Report: Faith, Culture, and Abortion Bans in the U.S. South. It’s the result of a two-year investigation of what happens when religion and health are mixed together, especially when it comes to reproductive rights, in that part of the country.
Caroline Kitchener, Washington Post
While the strict regulations around abortion at Catholic hospitals are widely known, a groundbreaking report published Tuesday by Columbia Law School shows that many Protestant-based and secular hospitals in the South also impose harsh restrictions on abortion care, permitting the procedure only under a narrow set of circumstances and sometimes requiring an elaborate approval process that may involve religious leaders, even in time-sensitive cases when a patient’s life might be in danger.
Strict restrictions have become a “generalized standard of care” at many Protestant and secular hospitals, said Elizabeth Reiner Platt, the director of the Law, Rights and Religion Project at Columbia and a co-author of the study, which was based on an analysis of abortion restrictions at Protestant hospitals and survey responses from more than 200 doctors.
Simran Jeet Singh, United States Politics and Policy Blog (London School of Economics)
Reclaiming religious freedom from the right-wing may seem irreconcilable. However, a clear vision for religious freedom was laid out in an October 2020 report co-authored by Auburn Seminary and Columbia Law School’s Law, Rights, and Religion Project. The report offers six principles for an expanded and evenly applied approach: religious liberty must be neutral, must be noncoercive, must be nondiscriminatory, must not be absolute, must be democratic, and must be pluralistic.
As the authors of the report write in its introduction: “Religious liberty rights have been immeasurably damaged over the past several years – often in the name of protecting religious liberty… To achieve true freedom for those of all faiths and none, a complete overhaul of religious liberty policy, and a new understanding of what this right truly means, is necessary.
Liam Stack, New York Times
“The Supreme Court has taken a very broad view of the ministerial exception,” said Katherine M. Franke, the director of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project at Columbia Law School. “The boundary question is when is an employee actually engaging in ministry, as opposed to a private religious school where someone teaches math or science or literature?
“That is the question, what does it mean to be engaged in ministry?” she added. “It can’t simply be that you’re employed by a religious institution.”
Jimmy Vielkind, Wall Street Journal
Katherine Franke, a professor at Columbia Law School, said that the California case is one of several recent Supreme Court rulings that expand protections for religious liberty, and she expects cases rising up from state vaccine mandates could set a national precedent.
Ms. Franke said the cases question how best to balance different constitutional rights, and also highlight how concerns about threats to public health have been by the court seen as secondary to perceived threats to religious liberty.
Katherine Franke, New York Daily News
Excerpt: “When read together, the Texas abortion case, the COVID mass gatherings case and the eviction moratorium case, signal a startling new approach to constitutional rights forged by this Supreme Court, as the Law, Rights, and Religion Project at Columbia Law School noted in a recent report. Some rights are ranked as more fundamental, and thus more deserving of the court’s immediate attention. When these first-tier rights — religious exercise and property rights — are claimed to be under threat, the court senses a constitutional emergency that deserves immediate attention.
Second-tier rights — public health, reproductive rights, racial, sexual orientation and gender equality — are regarded as less worthy of the court’s protection and, in many cases, must now yield to the protection of more favored rights.”
John Kruzel, The Hill
“What we've seen over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic is that the Supreme Court has now created a new constitutional test for the protection of free exercise of religion that is more robust than its standard for basically any other fundamental constitutional right,” said Elizabeth Reiner Platt, director of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project at Columbia University Law School.
Amy Littlefield, Truthout
During the pandemic, religious entities, often supported by influential right-wing firms like the Alliance Defending Freedom, Thomas More Society and Liberty Counsel, filed a barrage of religious objections to rules aimed at protecting people from COVID, culminating in more than 100 decisions, according to a preliminary tally by the Law, Rights, and Religion Project at Columbia Law School. In Tandon, a Bible study group in California said it should be exempt from a rule barring in-home gatherings of more than three households.
The case made its way to the Supreme Court, where the justices sided with the Bible study group 5 to 4, writing that “government regulations are not neutral and generally applicable, and therefore trigger strict scrutiny under the Free Exercise Clause, whenever they treat any comparable secular activity more favorably than religious exercise.”
Lost in the weeds was a legal bomb. The Court had, in effect, ruled that if a government made any exception to a rule — like allowing people to grocery shop in a pandemic — it had to make an exception for religious activities. In other words, the justices had elevated religion above just about every other right, including free speech and racial equality, according to a report out today by Columbia Law School’s Law, Rights and Religion Project.
“The failure of the government to grant religious objectors an exemption from nearly any law or policy now amounts to religion-based discrimination, no matter the importance of the public interest being protected by the law — even the public’s interest in staying healthy during a global pandemic,” concludes the report, titled, “We The People (of Faith): The Supremacy of Religious Rights in the Shadow of a Pandemic.” “Under this broad conception of religious liberty, policymakers could be constitutionally required to exempt religious adherents from regulations enacted to protect labor and workers’ rights, public health, civil rights, and other critical policy goals.”
Jess Bravin, Wall Street Journal
"When the court can avoid the issue no longer, the balance will likely go to religious believers, said Katherine Franke, faculty director of the Law, Rights and Religion Project at Columbia Law School.
“Fulton showed us that the court is disposed to a kind of tiering of constitutional rights where some rights are higher-ranked over others,” Ms. Franke said. “Religious liberty sits at the top tier. And equality, whether it’s race- based, sex-based or LGBT equality, enjoys now a kind of second-class status,” she said."
Samantha Fields, Marketplace
"And Katherine Franke at Columbia Law School said it could end up applying pretty broadly. “The court is now ranking constitutional rights. There are top-tier rights, religious liberty at the very top, and equality, whether it’s race or sex or LGBT equality, is a second-tier right.”
Franke said that’s indicative of a shift at the Supreme Court."
Melissa Murray & Kate Shaw, Strict Scrutiny Podcast
Erik Larson, Bloomberg
““Courts have increasingly taken a very aggressive approach to accommodating religious practices, particularly of white conservative Christians, so these cases may test the judiciary’s willingness to apply the same standards to a highly disfavored religious group,” said Elizabeth Reiner Platt, director of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project at Columbia Law School.”
Elizabeth Reiner Platt, The Hill
Excerpt: “While religious exemption conversations are still dominated by debates over sex, marriage and reproduction, we confine it to a “culture war” issue at our peril. The ability of religious exemptions to undercut a wide swath of regulations and protections in the areas of economic and workers’ rights, public health, environmental justice and even democratic reforms should not be underestimated.
Rather than continually playing defense in response to ever broader religious exemption requests across a widening range of issues, those outside the Christian right must reclaim and fight for our own vision of religious liberty rooted in a commitment to democracy, pluralism and equality.”
Katherine McKeen, The Regulatory Review
“The new sanctuary movement has used RFRA to defend its advocacy. In November 2019, a federal jury decided that RFRA protected a humanitarian volunteer’s right to provide migrants near the border with water, food, and other aid as a matter of conscience. Professor Katherine Franke of Columbia Law School marked this as the first time a federal judge has “positively analyzed” an RFRA claim in favor of a progressive defendant.”
Media Mentions 2020
John Kruzel, The Hill
““This case is about the right to go to church, synagogue, or mosque during a pandemic but it’s about so much more,” said Katherine Franke, a law professor at Columbia University where she heads the Law, Rights, and Religion Project. “It represents a potent example of COVID opportunism, the exploitation of the health crisis to gain advances in other political agendas.””
Tucker Higgins, CNBC
“A win for CSS could take several possible forms. Katherine Franke, faculty director of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project at Columbia University, said it was possible the court could overturn Smith without explicitly crafting a new standard.
But based on recent cases in which the court has interpreted the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Franke said it was more likely the court would create an higher standard for reviewing laws that affect religion than existed even before Smith was decided in 1990.
“Many of us in the business call this religious liberty on steroids,” she said.
With Kennedy’s departure, Franke said, the court embarked on a new phase in its religion cases, in which religious rights started to be elevated above all others.
“Justice Kennedy saw all the rights secured in the Constitution in a delicate balance with one another, where this current majority sees some rights as more fundamental than others,” Franke said. “We are beginning to see a sort of tiering of rights, where some are top tier rights, and others are middle tier rights.”
The conflict between those “top tier” rights — religion and gun rights, among others — and “middle tier” rights was on display last term, Franke said.
Franke noted that the cases favoring religion were written in soaring language, while Gorsuch’s opinion defending gay and transgender workers was workmanlike — and left open the possibility that religious employers could claim an exemption from Title 7.
“I see that when these are going to come up against each other, the deep normative reasoning of the religious liberty cases will just overpower the mechanical reasoning of the equality cases or the reproductive rights cases,” Franke said.”
Jack Jenkins, RNS
“Elizabeth Reiner Platt, director of The Law, Rights and Religion Project at Columbia Law School, said there are “certainly” indications that Barrett will push the court toward a narrow understanding of religious liberty, one that is being espoused by conservative Christian legal groups.
Platt pointed to an amicus brief filed by ADF in Trump v. Hawaii, a landmark 2018 Supreme Court case in which justices issued a 5-4 ruling upholding Trump’s travel ban — which activists derided as a “Muslim ban.” The plaintiffs had claimed that the ban on refugees and immigrants from a group of primarily Muslim-majority countries violated the establishment clause.
“Arguing for such a radically limited reading of the Establishment Clause would allow the government to openly prefer religion over irreligion, and even Christianity over other religions so long as this preference doesn’t amount to an official state religion,” Platt said in an email. The moderate and liberal justices tend to read the establishment clause differently, as something that, as Platt put it, “require(s) that the government treat all beliefs about religion with neutrality and to refrain from endorsing religion overall, or any particular religion.”
Putting Barrett on the bench, Platt said, could perpetuate this trend of invoking religious liberty as “a de-regulatory force” allowing individuals and corporations to opt out of laws by invoking faith.”
Mary Clare Jalonick and Elana Schor, Associated Press
“Columbia University law professor Katherine Franke said that asking Barrett how she would handle ‘an irreconcilable conflict between the commitment she’s made to religious law and the commitment she’s made to secular law” would be acceptable. But specifics about Barrett’s faith, such as broaching People of Praise, would have “a bad odor,’ Franke said.”
Sarah Posner, Rolling Stone
"Even with a 6-3 majority, Columbia’s [Professor] Franke does not believe there is a risk the Supreme Court would directly overrule Obergefell: “It is more likely that a new conservative majority of the court will solidify marriage-equality rights, like abortion rights, as a second-class constitutional right that religious objectors are entitled to ignore if they have a faith-based reason for doing so,” she says. “In this sense, I expect the court to further entrench a kind of tiering of constitutional rights,” with religious rights elevated, “while others such as privacy, sexual liberty, and equality being no match for the weight of the court’s preferred rights.”
Stephanie Russell-Kraft, The New Republic
“Columbia Law professor Katherine Franke describes the underlying ideas of the majority as “free exercise supremacy.” According to Franke, the court has created a tiered set of rights, where religious freedom is a first-class right, but sexual equality, LGBTQ rights, and reproductive rights are second-class. Franke believes the court’s language is particularly telling. “As you read the opinions, what you have is a kind of sterile, mechanical reasoning in equality cases and a deep moral reasoning in religion cases,” she said. “You get the sense that religious liberty is fundamental to American democracy, but equality is just reading a sentence in the statute.””
Henry Gass, Christian Science Monitor
““They have a longing for what religious liberty protections were before 1990,” says Katherine Franke, a professor at Columbia Law School and founder-director of the school’s Law, Rights and Religion Project. [...] “They’re trying to have the courts reread the Constitution in a way that elevates religious liberty rights over all other individual rights, as well as the public interest.” [...] “Some religious exemptions are appropriate and necessary,” says Professor Franke, the Columbia Law School scholar. But “they need to be given sparingly, or else we really undermine democracy itself.””
A Closer Look at Religious Exemptions (podcast)
Chris Dolmetsch, Dave Merrill, Christopher Cannon and Edvard Pettersson, Bloomberg
““Given the nationwide consequences of the court’s decisions, and the role that the courts play in our system of democratic governance, if the makeup of the Supreme Court fails to reflect any meaningful diversity, the court risks losing legitimacy in the eyes of the wider American citizenry,” said Katherine Franke, a professor at Columbia Law School.”
Ticker Higgins, CNBC
“According to Katherine Franke, a law professor at Columbia University, in the years since the passage of that law the Supreme Court has interpreted it in a way that has “expanded religious liberty rights well beyond where they were in 1990.” [...] Franke said it was quite possible the court would revisit Employment Division v. Smith and “read those RFRA rights back into the Constitution.””
John Kruzel, The Hill
“The majority of justices on the Supreme Court have increasingly treated religious liberty rights as of greater importance and weight than other fundamental constitutional and civil rights,” said Katherine Franke, a law professor at Columbia University. “When they are asked to adjudicate conflicts between religious liberty and other fundamental rights, they have consistently ruled that religious liberty supersedes other rights.”
“They do this by deploying soaring rhetoric about the almost sacred nature of religion in American culture, while using technical, almost antiseptic, reasoning when it comes to rights to equality or reproductive liberty,” added Franke, who serves as faculty director of Columbia University’s Law, Rights, and Religion Project.
Tucker Higgins, CNBC
[With regards to employers who may have a religious objection to a gay or transgender workers] Katherine Franke, the faculty director of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project at Columbia University, pointed to the case over religious objections to contraceptive coverage, which was decided on Wednesday, as an illustration of how LGBT worker rights could be narrowed in the future. She said it showed how the court uses religious liberty to carve out “huge exceptions to general rules around workplace equality.” “They give with the one hand and they take with the other,” Franke said.
John Kruzel, The Hill
[In regards to a ruling that a Montana program that excluded religious schools from a student aid initiative violates religious freedoms protected under the U.S. Constitution] Katherine Franke, a law professor at Columbia University, said the decision reflected an interpretative approach that has been advanced by religious conservatives over the past two decades. “This position seeks to frame a state's efforts to maintain a wall of separation between public and religious entities as a form of discrimination against religious entities,” said Franke, who serves as faculty director of Columbia University’s Law, Rights, and Religion Project.
Barbara Sostaita, Bitch Magazine
RFRA has been largely unsuccessful at defending migrants, though Katherine Franke, faculty director of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project at Columbia Law School, told me that a family in Texas cited Christianity’s respect for the family in an attempt to halt their father’s deportation. In 2018, Franke filed an amicus brief in support of Warren and later praised Márquez’s decision as a “significant defeat for the Department of Justice in its effort to protect religious liberty rights only when they advance the White House’s political agenda.”
Franke’s Law, Rights, and Religion Project’s November 2019 report “Whose Faith Matters? The Fight for Religious Liberty Beyond the Christian Right” debunks the idea that religious liberty primarily advances the interests of right-wing conservative Christians, and shows how members of various religious groups have taken to the courts to provide food and shelter to immigrants, perform marriages for same-sex partners, access abortion services, protest war and the death penalty, and protect the environment. During our conversation, Franke explained that the passage of RFRA was, ironically, delayed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who feared that abortion-rights activists would make a faith-based claim based on respect for the family or bodily integrity. The left has long mobilized this law. After Franke pointed out that Native Americans in federal prisons have successfully argued for sweat lodges and baths for purification ceremonies, we discussed the construction of religion as a colonial category. I asked Franke, when we invoke religion in a legal sense, is it inevitably tied to Protestant Christian ideas of “sincerely held,” individual and interior belief?
Stephen Dinan, The Washington Times
“‘Judge Márquez’s opinion marks a significant defeat for the Department of Justice in its effort to protect religious liberty rights only when they advance the White House’s political agenda,’ said Katherine Franke, director of the Law, Rights and Religion Project at Columbia Law School.”
Miriam Jackson, The Union Journal
“Under Trump, the Department of Justice has actually prompted a slim analysis of RFRA insurance claims made by individuals of belief that do not share the administration’s plan objectives, according to Katherine Franke. “The Trump Department of Justice has taken a biased approach to defending and enforcing religious liberty rights under RFRA, robustly protecting the rights of conservative Evangelical Christians while prosecuting people whose faith moves them to oppose the government’s policies.””
Harmeet Kaur, CNN
“Though the Trump administration has emphasized protecting the religious liberty "to the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law," Justice Department lawyers rejected the assertion that the volunteers' actions were motivated by their faith, according to the Law, Rights & Religion Project at Columbia Law School.
"Judge Márquez's opinion marks a significant defeat for the Department of Justice in its effort to protect religious liberty rights only when they advance the White House's political agenda," Katherine Franke, faculty director of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project, said in a statement.”
Jack Jenkins, Religion News Service
“Katherine Franke, a law professor at Columbia University who joined other legal scholars in submitting an amicus brief in the case, called the ruling a “stinging rebuke” of both the lower court decision and the U.S. Department of Justice, which she accused of trivializing the religious freedom claims of the activists.
“For an administration that has made the protection of religious liberty its stated top priority, it is shocking to see how they have mocked the No More Deaths defendants in this case,” she said.
Franke, who also heads up Columbia’s Law, Rights and Religion Project, insisted unlike other rulings, Márquez was simply applying the law neutrally and “not just for religious actors that agree with the White House’s political stances.”
Franke noted the Arizona case is one of at least two high-profile religious liberty cases making their way through the courts that feature progressive, faith-based immigrant rights activists. The other centers on the Rev. Kaji Douša, senior pastor of Park Avenue Christian Church in New York, who is suing the federal government, contending it surveilled and investigated her for doing religious work with immigrants along the U.S.-Mexico border.”
Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams
“The ruling also was welcomed Monday by professor Katherine Franke, faculty director of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project at Columbia Law School. Franke, who had filed a friend of the court brief in the case on behalf of seven religious liberty law scholars, said in a statement that "we are quite pleased to see that Judge Márquez applied an analysis of the RFRA claim that mirrored the structure we provided in our brief."
[Franke] noted "This is now the second time in several months that a federal judge has granted a faith-based defense raised by immigrants' rights activists who are being criminally prosecuted by the federal government for coming to the aid of people crossing the deadly Arizona desert."”
Ryan Devereaux, The Intercept
“Katherine Franke, a law professor at Columbia, where she is faculty director of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project, called the reversal “fantastic.” Last year, Franke and her colleagues published a report illustrating how the federal government has routinely sided with right-wing or conservative causes in religious freedom cases. The law professor has followed the No More Deaths cases closely, filing motions in support of RFRA defenses. “The lower court’s opinion was so horrible just as a matter of legal reasoning, that it was really nice to see the judge apply a thorough and careful analysis of the religious liberty claim,” Franke told The Intercept. While she anticipates a government appeal, Franke said Monday’s reversal provides a solid foundation for applying RFRA in similar legal contexts.
“The government isn’t going to roll over just because they lose a case or two,” she explained. “But what we’ve got now is a developing record of careful analysis from federal courts on how RFRA ought to apply in contexts like this.””
Paul Ingram, The Tucson Sentinel
“Katherine Franke, the director of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project at Columbia Law School, praised Marquez's decision, writing that overturning the convictions "marks a significant defeat for the Department of Justice in its effort to protect religious liberty rights only when they advance the White House's political agenda."
Franke filed a friend of the court brief, along with seven other scholars, about the RFRA's application in the case in April 2019.”
“Katherine Franke, a professor at Columbia Law School, discusses a religious-school aid case that divided the Supreme Court justices during oral arguments. She speaks to host June Grasso.
“I think what we’re seeing happening, with the kinds of claims made by faith-based individuals and organizations across a range of contexts, is the use of religious liberty as a way to undo our forms of secular lawmaking, whether it’s around gay rights, whether it’s around contraception or abortion and reproductive liberty more generally, these hot-button issues where we have a state or the federal government (perhaps in the form of the Affordable Care Act and other laws) passing laws that some religious conservatives don’t agree with. Rather than going through the normal legislative process, where you say, ‘Well, let’s elect different people who are more in keeping with my views,’ instead we say ‘Well, those laws don’t apply to me’. It’s a very anti-democratic way to approach what is an effort at democratic lawmaking in a pluralistic society. Normally your response when a law is passed that you don’t agree with is not to say that ‘this law doesn’t apply to me’, but that ‘we need a different law’”.”
Maya Earls, McClatchy DC
“Columbia University professor Katherine Franke criticized President Donald Trump’s new guidance on prayer in schools, saying it reinforces the administration’s “extremely radical approach to fundamental rights.” [...] The Trump administration is treating religious liberty differently than any other of the fundamental rights outlined in the Constitution, Franke told McClatchy News.
“What these instructions do is tell school administrators you need not balance anymore,” she said. “Religious liberty rights take precedence over every other right.” Franke continued, saying that erasing rules that require faith-based groups to provide alternate options puts vulnerable communities at risk of being discriminated against or provided inadequate services. For example, she said some Catholic hospitals refuse to provide certain reproductive health care procedures. Without notice patients might not be aware. “If you don’t know what the choice is between one kind of service and the other kind of service, that’s not an informed choice,” she said.”
Media Mentions, 2018 - 2019
December 12, 2019
"The Christian right, the Evangelical Christian right, has done a very effective job of capturing the very idea of religious liberty. ... But if you look historically at the way in which we have protected religious liberty in this country going back to even before the founding of the country, religious liberty rights were really put in place in order to protect religious minorities," [Katherine] Franke said.
She said people can't just use the religious freedom argument to try to get away with something. "The requirements for getting a religious exemption are actually quite stringent," she said.
Julia Duin, GetReligion
November 27, 2019
“The federal judiciary has been treating religious liberty claims, RFRA claims of progressive social activists, very differently than when those faith-based claims are being made by conservative evangelicals,” [Katherine] Franke said.
“Not only is the verdict a kind of indictment of the federal government’s immigration policy, but it’s also an indictment of the way they’re protecting religious liberty,” she added. “I have to say, I am delighted because the other RFRA claims that have been raised in the last several years by progressive social activists have been rejected completely by federal judges. So, this is the first one we’ve seen where the judge has positively analyzed a RFRA claim in favor of the defendant, and it’s quite remarkable.”
Jasmine Aguilera, TIME
November 21, 2019
"But prosecutors argued Warren knowingly assisted the migrants in hiding from Border Patrol. In sworn testimony during both trials, the two agents who arrested Warren said they saw him talking to the migrants and gesturing toward areas of the desert where they are less likely to be arrested by Border Patrol. Warren denied that claim, saying he was helping to orient the men to ensure they didn’t wander into more dangerous and deadly terrain.
The case has ramifications that go beyond Warren’s verdict.
“The government certainly wants to send a strong message to people who are providing aid to migrants,” Katherine Franke, professor of law at Columbia University and faculty director of the school’s Law, Rights and Religion Project, tells TIME."
Leonardo Blair, The Christian Post
November 18, 2019
"Liberal people of faith are fighting to freely practice their beliefs and practices, such as abortion and same-sex marriage, a new report from Columbia Law School’s Law, Rights, and Religion Project says.
The report, Whose Faith Matters? The Fight for Religious Liberty Beyond the Christian Right, argues that despite the widely accepted narrative, Christian conservatives are not dedicated to protecting religious liberty but their work in this area has “resulted in the rapid erosion rather than protection of this right, as policymakers have enshrined particular theological beliefs into U.S. law and policy while erasing or even denigrating other religious traditions.”"
Amy Littlefield, VICE
November 12, 2019
""I think the biggest overall takeaway is just to stop seeing religious liberty as a conservative value, as something that really only matters to conservatives and is really only relevant to this narrow band of claims related to LGBTQ rights and abortion,” said Elizabeth Reiner Platt, director of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project at Columbia Law School and lead author of the report."
Alex Devoid, Arizona Daily Star
November 2, 2019
"Prosecutors are acknowledging that the mention of Trump or his policies would likely reflect badly on their cases against immigrant-rights advocates, said Katherine Franke, a law professor at Columbia University.
She is also the director of a law project at Columbia that filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Warren’s case due to his religious liberty claim. The project commonly advises the courts on how to approach these types of claims.
Warren’s case is part of a larger trend of prosecuting immigrants’ rights activists under the Trump administration, Franke said."
Tania Karas, PRI
June 6, 2019
"Arizona’s aid groups — the smaller ones in particular — fear that if Warren is found guilty, they’ll have to stop serving migrants soup or providing them temporary shelter, said Katherine Franke, director of Columbia Law School’s Law, Rights and Religion Project. She filed an amicus brief in Warren’s case.
'The risks could radiate outward from these particular cases to anybody who may advertently or inadvertently provide aid to a person who doesn't have legal papers,' Franke said. 'They're all worried that the federal government is going to come after them as well for providing aid to undocumented people or to people who are on their way of making an asylum claim.'"
Melissa Borja, Patheos
May 30, 2019
"Katherine Franke, director of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project at Columbia Law School, criticized the Department of Justice for its 'contradiction in how they support religious liberty.' Franke, who filed an amicus brief supporting Warren’s religious claims, argued that Warren’s prosecution offers a 'troubling message' to people of faith who, like Warren, 'are interested in the sanctity of life' and demonstrate that concern for life through humanitarian aid to vulnerable people, including migrants."
Asher Stockler, Newsweek
May 29, 2019
“'All of the prosecutions of the No More Deaths activists implicate the kind of basic humanitarian aid that many organizations are giving throughout the country,' Katherine Franke, director of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project at Columbia Law School, told Newsweek. 'By the terms of these charges, if someone puts out food or water or any other aid, they risk federal prosecution.'
Franke, who filed an amicus brief in support of Warren’s religious claim to [humanitarian] aid work, said that the prosecution sends a 'troubling message' to religious workers like Warren 'who are interested in the sanctity of life.'"
Dana Rudolph, PrideSource, Between the Lines
May 8, 2019
"The Law, Rights, and Religion Project at Columbia Law School has a different take, however. They remind us that, 'Communities and people of faith hold a wide spectrum of views regarding abortion, sterilization and other health services implicated by the rule. In fact, several religious denominations hold that the right to reproductive health care is an essential aspect of religious freedom.' Furthermore, 'The rule violates the religious liberty of all Americans by establishing a formal legal preference for particular religious beliefs, including opposition to abortion and sterilization.'"
Emma Green, The Atlantic
May 7, 2019
Religion does not always compel people to oppose LGBT rights or abortion. “People of faith have a wide variety of views when it comes to issues like abortion and LGBTQ rights,” says Elizabeth Platt, the director of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project at Columbia University. In her view, this new rule unfairly favors a conservative interpretation of religion—and of existing federal statutes. “I don’t think that people’s access to health care and health-care information should necessarily be dependent on their providers’ religious beliefs,” she says.
John Reilly, MetroWeekly
May 2, 2019
"...[T]he Law, Rights, and Religion Project at Columbia Law School said that the new rule actually 'violates the religious liberty of all Americans by establishing a formal legal preference for particular religious beliefs, including opposition to abortion and sterilization.'
Noting that different religions, and even denominations within the same religious family, hold differing views on issues like abortion, end-of-life decisions, and the role of governmental interference into private health decisions, the Law, Rights, and Religion Project says the HHS rule openly disregards any health care provider whose beliefs differ from those prescribed by conservative activists.”
Tanzina Vega, The Takeaway, NPR and WNYC
April 24, 2019
Professor Katherine Franke, Faculty Director of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project, spoke with Tanzina Vega on a case brought by the Ramapough Lenape Nation against the town of Mahwah, NJ, regarding ancestral land and religious liberty.
David Brockman, Texas Observer
April 17, 2019
“Religious liberty rights cannot be absolute,” Elizabeth Reiner Platt, director of Columbia University’s Law, Rights, and Religion Project, told the Observer. “The classic law school example of this is someone who believes in human sacrifice. Not even the most extreme advocates for broad religious liberty rights would argue that the state can or should protect killing as a religious practice.”
Law and Disorder Radio
April 15, 2019
Professor Katherine Franke spoke with Law and Disorder Radio on her work with Al Otro Lado at the U.S. Border, addressing the humanitarian crisis at hand. Professor Franke's remarks as part of this week's program of Law and Disorder Radio begin at 33:11.
Stephanie Russell-Kraft, The Nation
April 15, 2019
"A system of laws that allows for too many carve-outs and exemptions is a 'serious antidemocratic problem,' said [Professor Katherine] Franke, a leading expert on RFRA.
Religious-liberty protections are also limited to religious actors. Progressives acting for secular moral reasons aren’t eligible for exemptions. 'When we all stand together to defend the rights of migrants or asylum seekers, some people do that because of their faith and many are doing that for not-faith-based reasons,' said Franke. 'Why should the people who have a plausible faith-based reason for their actions be treated differently than those of us who don’t?'
Nevertheless, 'it would be a terrible political move on the part of the left to surrender RFRA as it’s been interpreted through Hobby Lobby to the right wing,' Franke said. 'That doesn’t mean we won’t be careful.'"
Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal
March 21, 2019
In this piece, Debra Cassens Weiss recalls the details that Elizabeth Reiner Platt, Director of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project, provided to the Washington Post in reviewing the case of the Kunkel family in Kentucky, in their lawsuit claiming that a public health edict that restricted their unvaccinated child from participating in school activities violated their religious liberty.
Katie Mettler, The Washington Post
March 20, 2019
"Elizabeth Reiner Platt, director of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project at Columbia Law School, reviewed the lawsuit at The Post’s request and wrote in an email that she believed the lawsuit could succeed only if 'the family can demonstrate that the state was acting not to protect the health and safety of schoolchildren, but out of animus against the family’s religious beliefs.
This will be a very challenging claim to make, and the family’s argument that an e-mail from the health department stating that its 'primary concern is preventing the spread of this illness to the public’ constitutes ‘remarkable’ evidence of discriminatory animus is unpersuasive,' Platt said."
Nicole Ludden, KTAR News
January 24, 2019
"Katherine Franke... said the criminalization of No More Deaths’ humanitarian work can spill over to the work of other aid organizations.
'I think any of the people who are providing social services to a range of communities in southern Arizona, some of whom might include undocumented people, are vulnerable to being prosecuted as well,' Franke said. 'I’ve spoken to some of those people in southern Arizona, and they’re very worried and are watching how these cases go.'"
EJ Montini, Courier Express
January 21, 2019
"Katherine Franke, amicus brief: 'It is not the defendants' position that they were barred from applying for a permit to enter the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, rather, they argue, the conditions contained in the permits required them to agree not to engage in religiously motivated conduct. In this sense, the terms of the permit forced them a 'to choose between the tenets of their religion and a government benefit.' "
'Literally What Jesus Told People to Do': In Arizona, Possible Prison Time for Leaving Food and Water for Migrants
Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams
January 21, 2019
"Professor Katherine Franke, faculty director of the [Law, Rights, and Religion Project], challenged the outcome on legal grounds.
'Velasco's guilty verdict in the case mirrored the government lawyers' trivialization of the defendants' religious liberty claims, describing them as 'a modified Antigone defense,' she said in a statement. 'He failed to undertake even a minimal legal analysis of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, as the law required.'"
Edith Espinal Has Spent 18 Months Hiding From ICE in a Church. How Much Longer Will The Authorities Let Her Stay?
Stephanie Russell-Kraft, The New Republic
January 17, 2019
"Oliver-Bruno’s deportation came as a shot across the bow. 'I would bet in the next six months, we’ll see them start to move into those sensitive locations,' Columbia University law professor Katherine Franke told me. 'They’ve done it in courts, they’ve done it in schools, and they said they wouldn’t do it there either. I think they’ll start taking the undocumented people and start arresting the hosts.'"
On National Religious Freedom Day, consider the double standard on religious freedom - and why it's a problem
Kelsey Dallas, Deseret News
January 16, 2019
"It will likely take more than a few studies to change how Americans approach religious freedom, Franke said. There's still a lot of confusion about what this right guarantees, and cultural and political factors complicate efforts to address it.
'I think average Americans don't really know what the free exercise of religion means,' she said. 'There are several well-funded advocacy organizations pushing a radical interpretation' that only benefits them."
Frederick Clarkson, Rewire.News
December 18, 2018
"[Elizabeth Reiner Platt, Director of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project] stressed that 'it’s really important to … remind ourselves what religious liberty really is, which is the freedom of individuals and communities to practice their religious beliefs, or to practice no religion, in a pluralistic society, free from government persecution, discrimination, or coercion. So this is a foundational constitutional value, and it’s a progressive value.'"
Paul Rosenberg, AlterNet
December 16, 2018
In a reprint of Rosenberg's article from Salon.com, author Paul Rosenberg quotes Elizabeth Reiner Platt, Director of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project, from remarks given as part of a webinar on how the Religious Right invokes "Religious Freedom" selectively to promote a White Christian Nationalist agenda.
Paul Rosenberg, RawStory.com
December 16, 2018
“'The Christian right has been extremely effective over the past five or so years in branding progressives as anti-religious freedom, even while we know at the same time the far right and the Trump administration, is quite overtly attacking religious freedom through the promulgation of Islamophobic policies like the Muslim ban,' [Elizabeth Reiner Platt, Director of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project] noted."
Paul Rosenberg, Salon.com
December 16, 2018
"[Elizabeth Reiner Platt] began with a point that belongs front and center, since everything in Project Blitz rests on its denial...'I wanted to step back and start out by reminding everyone that religious liberty is a progressive value....It's really important to ... remind ourselves what religious liberty really is, which is the freedom of individuals and communities to practice their religious beliefs, or to practice no religion, in a pluralistic society, free from government persecution, discrimination or coercion. So this is a foundational constitutional value, and it's a progressive value.'”
Sean Kirkby, Wisconsin Health News
November 28, 2018
"A wave of healthcare consolidation that has increased the reach of Catholic healthcare facilities could lead to more women of color receiving limited sexual and reproductive healthcare, according to the co-author of a report studying the trend.
Kira Shepherd, Director of the Racial Justice Program at the [Law, Rights, and Religion Project]... spoke at a panel in Milwaukee last month."
Taryn McGinn Valley, Wisconsin Health News
November 27, 2018
"These religiously imposed standards of care could mean tragedy or trauma for any patient. However, as is the case in many aspects of health and wellbeing, it is communities of color who are disproportionately affected....These trends were recently confirmed by a report from the Columbia Law School [Law, Rights, and Religion Project] in partnership with Public Health Solutions, 'Bearing Faith: The Limits of Catholic Health Care for Women of Color.' The study compared racial disparities in birth rates at hospitals that place religious restrictions on health care, demonstrating a disproportionate impact of ERDs on pregnant women of color."
Lara Freidenfelds, Nursing Clio
November 1, 2018
"The impact of the [Conference of Catholic Bishops' Ethical and Religious] Directives has also been racially discriminatory: earlier this year the Columbia Law School’s [Law, Rights, and Religion Project] documented the lopsided impact of religious restrictions on women of color, who are disproportionately likely to give birth at Catholic hospitals."
Lake Effect, Milwaukee Public Radio
October 27, 2018
This episode from Milwaukee Public Radio highlights a program Kira Shepherd, Director of the Racial Justice Program, hosted in Milwaukee in October of 2018, discussing the impacts of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project's report, "Bearing Faith: The Limits of Catholic Healthcare for Women of Color."
Kevin Jones, Catholic News Agency
October 25, 2018
The Catholic News Agency mentions the Law, Rights, and Religion Project in this piece, regarding grant funding for organizations that critically review the use of Religious Exemptions and Religious Liberty bills.
Ephrat Livni, Quartz
October 19, 2018
“'There’s a public face of this government, which is very protective of religious liberty, and then the real work they’re doing is only protecting the religious liberty rights of those who are religious conservatives, not of religious progressives,' [said] Katherine Franke, [D]irector of the [Law, Rights, and Religion Project] at Columbia Law School"
Latoya Dennis, Milwaukee Public Radio
October 17, 2018
"According to a recent report called 'Bearing Faith: The Limits of Catholic Health Care For Women of Color,' 52 percent of black women in Wisconsin give birth at a Catholic hospital.
Kira Shepherd, director of Columbia Law Schools Racial Justice Program, is behind the study."
Lake Effect, Milwaukee Public Radio
October 17, 2018
This feature on Milwaukee Public Radio discusses the impact of the Racial Justice Program's seminal report, "Bearing Faith: The Limits of Catholic Healthcare for Women of Color" with a specific eye cast to communities in Wisconsin.
Don Byrd, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty
September 29, 2018
"I emphasized in my post that laws like RFRA are not 'get out of jail free' cards, but that they provide an important legal framework for adjudicating claims for religious accommodation on a case-by-case basis. Also important, however, is that those enforcing the laws treat religious freedom claims without bias, free of political agenda, and without religious favoritism. Those are the themes of an op-ed in the Washington Post today entitled “Religious freedom for me, but not for thee” by Columbia University professor Katherine Franke."
Cheyenne Varner, CheyenneVarner.com
September 25, 2018
"When speaker Kira Shepherd from the Racial Justice Program (and more) at Columbia Law began to speak about 'White Christian Supremacy' at [the] Decolonize Birth Conference this weekend, I had a visceral reaction. A skin crawl. A sinking in my gut, in part because I already knew…
...I knew that during slavery, people who called themselves Christian declared themselves superior over others to justify enslaving them, humiliating them, beating them, scarring them, separating them from their children and families, and killing them."
Serena Worthington, Windy City Times
August 22, 2018
"The report, Dignity Denied: Religious Exemption and LGBT Elder Services is by The Movement Advancement Project, SAGE and the [Law, Rights, and Religion Project] at Columbia Law School. The research finds that while many... religiously affiliated facilities provide great care, there is a coordinated and on-going effort to pass religious exemption laws, issue executive orders and agency guidance, and to litigate court cases to allow individuals, businesses, and even government contractors and grantees to use religion to discriminate."
Max Brantley, Arkansas Times Blog
July 30, 2018
This article from the Arkansas Times highlighting Attorney General Jeff Sessions' work with the Department of Justice regarding "Religious Liberty", and how the vision of "Religious Liberty" advanced by Attorney General Sessions poses harms to multiple marginalized groups. The article cites the report, "Dignity Denied: Religious Exemptions and LGBT Elder Services" produced by scholars from the [Law, Rights, and Religion Project], among other groups.
Masood Farivar, VOA News
July 26, 2018
This report from VOA News highlights the work of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project with partners CAIR-NY and the Center for American Progress regarding President Trump's Executive Order on Religious Liberty and the DOJ's "guidance" on Religious Liberty
Edith Roberts, SCOTUS Blog
June 28, 2018
"At Rewire.News, Elizabeth Reiner Platt maintains that '[i]n four decisions issued near the end of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 term, the Court offered wildly different accounts of the significance of, and its duty to redress, ‘discrimination’ in U.S. law.'"
Stephanie Russell-Kraft, The Lily
June 26, 2018
In an analysis of the Supreme Court's decision regarding Crisis Pregnancy Centers in California, Stephanie Russell-Kraft highlights the relevance of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project's research report, "Bearing Faith: The Limits of Catholic Health Care for Women of Color," on the directives and policies that restrict womens' access to full spectrum health care.
Edith Roberts, SCOTUS Blog
June 6, 2018
Elizabeth Reiner Platt's Op-Ed, "Will SCOTUS's New Zeal for Neutrality Affect its Decision on the Muslim Ban?" is highlighted among commentary regarding the case in this week's Wednesday round-up from Edith Roberts, an editor at SCOTUSblog.
Scott Harris, Between the Lines
June 6, 2018
Frederick Clarkson, Senior Research Associate with Political Research Associates, spoke on the impact of "Project Blitz" - a series of guidelines for the Christian Right to introduce legislation at the Local and State Level. Clarkson discussed a recent webinar that Political Research Associates co-hosted with the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project to convene advocates and thought-leaders in addressing concerns about the content and rhetoric of Project Blitz through the development of discourse. Elizabeth Reiner Platt, Director of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project, was one of the presenters in the webinar, hosted on Thursday, May 24th.
Editors, The Wisconsin Gazette
June 4, 2018
The Wisconsin gazette highlights an amicus brief filed in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission by the National LGBT Bar Association in conjunction and the Law, Rights, and Religion Project, with other signatory parties, in this article following the Supreme Court's ruling in the case.
Abby Scher, The Progressive
June 1, 2018
"That means some of the worst burden of religious refusal has fallen on poor communities and particularly poor communities of color, which rely more on Roman Catholic hospitals. More than 75 percent of the mothers giving birth in New Jersey and Maryland Catholic hospitals are women of color, according to “Bearing Faith,” a  study from Columbia University Law School’s [Law, Rights, and Religion Project]."
Elizabeth Moore, Rutgers Law School
May 31, 2018
"'Women of color disproportionately give birth at Catholic hospitals in many states, including New Jersey,' said [Kira] Shepherd, the director of the Racial Justice Project of the [Law, Rights, and Religion Project] at Columbia Law School. However, many Catholic hospitals prohibit certain kinds of contraceptive services, which may include sterilization, abortion, contraception or termination after an ectopic pregnancy. "
"Elizabeth Reiner Platt, Director of the [Law, Rights, and Religion Project], said current law protects hospitals who choose not to offer certain services and it is difficult to litigate against them for these practices. She said state and federal laws permit religious exemptions to health care, 'We don’t have a clear legal line where a patient’s health has to take priority.'”
Ally Boguhn, Rewire News
May 24, 2018
"The misappropriation of RFRA started long before Trump became president. As Kira Shepherd, the [Director of the Racial Justice Program, with the Law, Rights, and Religion Project] at Columbia Law School, explained in 2016, 'the U.S. Supreme Court’s overly broad interpretation of RFRA in Hobby Lobby found that certain for-profit entities could avoid compliance with [the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit] by claiming a religious objection to doing so. After Hobby Lobby, many feared an increase in the number of people and institutions that would use RFRA and other religious exemption laws to limit the rights of third parties.'"
Julie Moreau, NBC News
April 10, 2018
The report, "Religious Liberty for a Select Few" co-authored by the Law, Rights, and Religion Project and the Center for American Progress is highlighted in this report from NBC News. The report critiques the Trump Administration's proposed guidance on "religious liberty," along with other policies focused on religion brought forth by the Administration.
The Leadership Conference
March 27, 2018
Kira Shepherd, Director of the Racial Justice Program, and the Law, Rights, and Religion Project's report, "Bearing Faith: The Limits of Catholic Health Care for Women of Color," are cited in this memo in response to the proposed HHS Rule submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services on behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and 15 other organizations.
Law and Disorder Radio
February 19, 2018
Interview with Elizabeth Reiner Platt and Kira Shepherd, the Director of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project and the Racial Justice Program at LRRP, respectively, spoke with Law and Disorder Radio on the Law, Rights, and Religion Project's report, "Bearing Faith: The Limits of Catholic Health Care for Women of Color." The report shows that in many states women of color are far more likely than white women to give birth at Catholic hospitals. These women are at greater risk of having their health needs undermined because these health needs have been determined by the religious beliefs of male bishops rather than the medical judgment of their doctors.
This religious overreach undermines fundamental rights to equality and liberty and violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment which seeks to separate church from state.
Eve Kucharski, PrideSource
January 31, 2018
"The study [Dignity Denied, co-authored by the Law, Rights, and Religion Project] found that the majority of healthcare services for the aging are offered by religiously-affiliated organizations — about 85 percent. This affiliation could be part of the reason that LGBTQ older adults have reported discrimination when accessing a variety of services like 'at work, at the doctor’s office, within residential communities and when seeking housing and when accessing social supports like community centers.'"
Editors, Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights
January 29, 2018
"A recently published report, 'Bearing Faith: The Limits of Catholic Health Care for Women of Color,' is the most anti-Catholic document assessing Catholic healthcare ever published. The authors want to effectively shut down Catholic hospitals, unless, of course, they stop being Catholic. The report is the work of the [Law, Rights, and Religion Project], a unit of Columbia Law School."
Judy Stone, Forbes.com
January 22, 2018
"There have been several disturbing reports recently of the disproportionately high death rate of pregnant black women compared to whites, with black mothers dying at three to four times the rate of white mothers....
A new report from Columbia Law School, 'Bearing Faith,' adds to that study of disparities, finding that 'women of color are more likely than white women to give birth at hospitals operating under the ERDs' The findings were particularly striking in New Jersey, where women of color make up 80% of births at Catholic hospitals, although are only half of all women of reproductive age. Other states with notable racial disparities were Maryland, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and Connecticut."
Howard Friedman, Religion Clause
January 20, 2018
"The Columbia Law School Public Rights/ Private Conscience Project yesterday released a new report Bearing Faith: The Limits of Catholic Health Care for Women of Color. The study focuses on racial disparities of women giving birth in Catholic hospitals governed by Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. According to the report: 'The ERDs forbid hospitals owned by or affiliated with the Catholic Church ... from providing many forms of reproductive health care, including contraception, sterilization, many infertility treatments, and abortion, even when a patient's life or health is jeopardized by a pregnancy'..."
New Report Reveals Pregnant Women of Color More Likely to Receive Religiously Restricted Reproductive Health Care in Many US States
Editors, Public Health Solutions
January 19, 2018
This press release, issued by Public Health Solutions, announces the publication of the report, "Bearing Faith: The Limits of Catholic Health Care for Women of Color," co-authored by the Law, Rights, and Religion Project with Public Health Solutions. The report finds that in many states, women of color are far more likely than white women to give birth at Catholic hospitals, putting them at greater risk of having their health needs determined by the religious beliefs of bishops rather than the medical judgment of doctors.
Frances Solá-Santiago, People Chica
January 19, 2018
People Chica highlights the Law, Rights, and Religion Project's report, "Bearing Faith: The Limits of Catholic Health Care for Women of Color" and the disproportionate harms the Conference of Catholic Bishops' ERDs (Ethical and Religious Directives) pose to the health and safety of women of color.
"[Elizabeth Reiner Platt] says medicine should take precedence over religious beliefs. 'The long-term effects of the ERDs on these communities could be fatal,' she says. 'Especially for women of color.' [The Law, Rights, and Religion Project] is focused on highlighting racial disparities in Catholic institutions across the country. Furthermore, Platt says the proliferation of Catholic institutions and the ERDs adversely affects queer and transgender individuals as well."
RWV Editor, Raising Women's Voices
January 19, 2018
"Today, the Trump administration proposed a sweeping new rule designed to ensure that health care providers – hospitals, insurance plans, doctors, nurses, technicians and even volunteers at hospitals – can refuse to provide medical care to which they have religious or moral objections....
The rule was issued on the same day that a new study [The Law, Rights, and Religion Project's, Bearing Faith: The Limits of Catholic Health Care for Women of Color] reported that women of color in 19 states are disproportionately affected by Catholic hospital restrictions on reproductive health care."
Stephanie Russell-Kraft, The New Republic
January 19, 2018
“The findings outlined in [Bearing Faith: The Limits of Catholic Health Care for Women of Color] indicate that women of color are at greater risk of being denied care due to religious restrictions when they need it most—during childbirth,” said Elizabeth Reiner Platt, director of the [Law, Rights, and Religion Project] and co-author of the report.
The extent to which Catholic hospitals are able to act on their ethics directives varies from state to state, where religious refusal laws provide more or less leeway for providers to deny coverage on religious grounds. The laws differ in terms of what procedures they cover, which medical providers are exempted (individual doctors versus the entire hospital), and what the exemptions entail (protection from civil vs. criminal liability)."
Amy Littlefield, Rewire News
January 19, 2018
"Catholic hospitals restrict access to abortion, sterilization, contraception, gender-affirming procedures, and other care under religious directives, which govern one in six acute-care beds nationwide.
A groundbreaking report reveals how women of color... bear the brunt of these restrictions. Researchers with Columbia Law School’s [Law, Rights, and Religion Project] analyzed data from 33 states and Puerto Rico. In 19 of those states, women of color were more likely than white women to give birth at a Catholic hospital. Nationally, 53 percent of births at Catholic hospitals are to women of color, versus 49 percent of births at non-Catholic hospitals.
'Pregnant women of color are more likely than their white counterparts to receive reproductive health care dictated by bishops rather than medical doctors,' the authors wrote in the report, 'Bearing Faith: The Limits of Catholic Health Care for Women of Color.'"