All posts by Elizabeth Boylan

New Report Reveals Pregnant Women of Color More Likely to Receive Religiously Restricted Reproductive Health Care in Many US States

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Friday, January 19th, 8:00 am

SUBJECT: New Report Reveals Pregnant Women of Color More Likely to Receive Religiously Restricted Reproductive Health Care in Many US States

Women of color are more likely to access Catholic hospitals, which prohibit doctors from providing contraceptives, sterilization, some treatments for ectopic pregnancy, abortion, and fertility services regardless of their patients’ wishes

CONTACTS:

Kira Shepherd, 215-908-4825, ks3377@columbia.edu

Elizabeth Reiner Platt, 212-854-8079, ep2801@columbia.edu

Kai Goldynia, 212-784-5728, kgoldynia@groupgordon.com

New York, Jan. 19, 2018–Pregnant women of color are at greater risk of being deprived of a range of reproductive health services in many US states as a result of their disproportionate use of Catholic hospitals, according to a new report released today by the Columbia Law School Public Rights/Private Conscience Project (PRPCP) in partnership with Public Health Solutions. Bearing Faith: The Limits of Catholic Health Care for Women of Color compares racial disparities in birth rates at hospitals that place religious restrictions on health care.

Catholic-affiliated hospitals are governed by the “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services,” a set of strict guidelines that prohibit doctors from providing contraceptives, sterilization, some treatments for ectopic pregnancy, abortion, and fertility services regardless of their patients’ wishes, the urgency of a patient’s medical condition, the doctor’s own medical judgment, or the standard of care in the medical profession. 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.

This finding is especially troubling given that women of color already face a range of health disparities—including lower rates of insurance coverage and higher rates of pregnancy complications—which increases their need for comprehensive reproductive health care.

Among the findings in the report:

  • In 19 of the 33 U.S. states and one territory studied, women of color are more likely than white women to give birth in a Catholic hospital.
  • The racial disparity in Catholic hospital birth rates is especially striking in several states. For example:
  • In New Jersey, women of color make up half of all women of reproductive age, but an overwhelming 80% of births at Catholic hospitals.
  • Three-quarters of births at Catholic hospitals in Maryland are to women of color. Black women in Maryland had almost 3,000 more births at Catholic hospitals than white women, despite the fact that they had over 10,000 fewer births overall.
  • Hispanic women represent about half of births at non-Catholic hospitals in New Mexico, but three-quarters of births at Christus St. Vincent—the state’s only Catholic birth hospital and a sole community provider.
  • In Massachusetts, while about one in twenty births to white women occur at Catholic hospitals, one in ten births to black and Hispanic women take place at Catholic hospitals.
  • One quarter of births to black women occur in a Catholic facility in Connecticut, while just over one tenth of births to white women occur in a Catholic hospital.
  • One in three births to white women in Wisconsin are at Catholic hospitals while just over one in two births to black women are in a Catholic hospital. Wisconsin was the only state studied where more black women give birth at a Catholic than a non-Catholic facility.
  • 43 states and the federal government have enacted laws protecting institutions, including Catholic hospitals, which refuse to provide comprehensive reproductive health care to patients. Despite these protections, courts have not clearly determined when and whether health care providers can withhold treatment due to their religious beliefs, or who should prevail when a hospital’s legal duty to care for a patient conflicts with a faith-based refusal law.

“The pervasive health disparities that exist between white women and women of color can be attributed to bias and racism, which both impact access to care as well as treatment within the health care system,” said Kira Shepherd, Director of the Racial Justice Project at Columbia Law School’s PRPCP. “These disparities are compounded by the spread of Catholic health care, which by putting religious doctrine over best medical practice exposes women of color to some of the same oppressive treatment that many have fought against for decades— treatment that devalues their lives and ignores their bodily autonomy.”

“Our report reveals that pregnant women of color in many states throughout the country are more likely to give birth at Catholic hospitals, where the full range of reproductive healthcare services are not available” said Lisa David, President and CEO of Public Health Solutions. “This puts their lives and families’ lives at greater risk. Public Health Solutions is committed to working to correct these restrictive religious overreaches disproportionately affecting women of color, and is proud to partner with the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project at Columbia Law School to produce this seminal report.”

A panel discussion on the release of the report will be held this evening at 6:30 PM at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. The panel will be moderated by Kira Shepherd, and will feature OB/GYN and abortion provider Dr. Willie J. Parker, attorney Candace Gibson, reproductive justice advocate Cherisse Scott, public health educator Faith Groesbeck, and Laurie Bertram Roberts, a doula and activist who was denied emergency reproductive health care at a Catholic hospital.

Read the report: https://www.law.columbia.edu/sites/default/files/microsites/gender-sexuality/PRPCP/bearingfaith.pdf

RSVP for the panel discussion: at http://bit.ly/2kUJbHa.

 

Media Advisory: New Research and Report Launch

Media Advisory: 

New Research and Report Launch
Bearing Faith: The Limits of Catholic Health Care for Women of Color

Press Contact: 
Liz Boylan
Associate Director, Center for Gender & Sexuality Law, Columbia Law School
212.854.0167 | eboyla@law.columbia.edu

Columbia Law School’s Public Rights/Private Conscience Project and Public Health Solutions announce the release of a groundbreaking report on how the rules governing care at Catholic-affiliated hospitals in the U.S. impact women of color’s access to reproductive health care. In Bearing Faith: The Limits of Catholic Health Care for Women of Color, the authors present data showing that in many states, women of color disproportionately give birth in Catholic hospitals that place religious restrictions on care—even during medical emergencies. Such restrictions stand to exacerbate the existing disparities women of color already face in accessing quality reproductive health care.

The report will be discussed at an event at New York City’s Judson Memorial Church on Friday, January 19—just days before the 45th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Decision in Roe v. Wade—by a diverse panel of reproductive justice activists, including OB/GYN and abortion provider Dr. Willie Parker as well as Laurie Bertram Roberts, a reproductive health activist who was refused care at a Catholic hospital while experiencing a miscarriage. 

WHEN:
Friday, January 19, 2018
6:30 pm – 8:30 pm

WHERE: 
Judson Memorial Church – Sanctuary Space
55 Washington Square South, New York, NY
Event URL: http://bit.ly/2kUJbHa

WHO:

Program speakers include:

  • Willie Parker
    OB/GYN and abortion provider
    Author, Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice
    Board Chair, Physicians for Reproductive Health
  • Candace Gibson
    Staff Attorney, National Health Law Program
  • Cherisse Scott
    Founder & Chief Executive Officer, SisterReach
  • Laurie Bertram Roberts
    Founder and Executive Director, Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund
  • Faith Groesbeck
    Director and Doula, Birth Quest Services LLC


[NEW YORK]
 The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project (PRPCP) at Columbia Law School is thrilled to announce the release of a groundbreaking report on how the rules governing care at Catholic-affiliated hospitals impact women of color’s access to reproductive health care. The report, written in partnership with Public Health Solutions, presents new research that women of color in many states disproportionately give birth at hospitals that place religious ideology above best medical practice.

The report will be launched with a panel discussion on Friday, January 19th at 6:30 pm at the Judson Memorial Church in downtown Manhattan. The panel, moderated by Kira Shepherd, director of the PRPCP Racial Justice Project, will explore the real-world impacts for women of color of laws and policies that subordinate the health and safety of patients to the religious beliefs of health care providers.

This program is free and open to the public. 2 New York State Continuing Legal Education Credits are available to all eligible participants. 

Please RSVP via Eventbrite: http://bit.ly/2kUJbHa

“The findings outlined in this report 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 PRPCP. “This event brings together health care providers, lawyers, activists, and educators to explore the impact that religious health care restrictions have on women of color, and to discuss policies for ensuring that no patient has their health and safety subordinated to religious tenets.”

SAVE THE DATE: Report Launch and Panel Discussion – Bearing Faith: The Limits of Catholic Health Care for Women of Color

Friday, January 19th, 2018
Bearing Faith: The Limits of Catholic Health Care for Women of Color
Judson Memorial Church, Sanctuary Space
55 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012
6:30 pm – 8:30 pm

2 CLE (Continuing Legal Education) Credits are available for eligible persons who attend the program.
RSVP is Required via Eventbrite: http://bit.ly/2kUJbHa

Event Description:

The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project is pleased to present a panel discussion upon the release of its report: “Bearing Faith: The Limits of Catholic Health Care for Women of Color.” The report presents new research finding that women of color in many states disproportionately give birth at hospitals that place religious ideology above best medical practice. Across the country, Catholic hospitals are governed by strict guidelines that prohibit doctors from providing contraceptives, sterilization, some treatments for ectopic pregnancy, abortion, and fertility services regardless of their patients’ wishes, the urgency of a patient’s medical condition, the doctor’s own medical judgment, or the standard of care in the medical profession. 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 subordinated to religious tenets. This finding is especially troubling given that women of color already face a range of health disparities, which increase their need for comprehensive reproductive health care.

________________________________
Our Panelists Include:

Kira Shepherd
Director, Racial Justice Project, Public Rights/Private Conscience Project

Willie J. Parker, MD, MPH, MSc
Author, Life’s Work, A Moral Argument for Choice
Southern Abortion Provider
Board Chair, Physicians for Reproductive Health

Candace Gibson
Staff Attorney, National Health Law Program

Cherisse Scott
Founder & CEO, SisterReach

Laurie Bertram Roberts
Executive Director, Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund

Faith Groesbeck
Doula, and Director, Birth Quest Home

________________________________
Information Regarding New York CLE Credits:

Columbia Law School has been certified by the New York State Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Board as an Accredited Provider of CLE programs. Under New York State CLE regulations, this live non-transitional CLE Program will provide 2 credit hours that can be applied toward the Areas of Professional Practice requirement. CLE credit is awarded only to New York attorneys for full attendance of the Program in its entirety. Attorneys attending only part of a Program are not eligible for partial credit for it, although they are most welcome to attend it. Attendance is determined by an attorney’s sign-in and sign-out, as shown in the Conference registers. On sign-out, attorneys should also submit their completed Evaluation Form, provided at the Conference. Please note the NYS Certificates of Attendance will be sent to the email address as it appears in the register unless otherwise noted there.”
________________________________
CLE Program reading materials:

Tamesha Means v. United States Conferences of Catholic Bishops – Complaint
https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/tamesha-means-v-united-states-conference-catholic-bishops-complaint

Bearing Faith: The Limits of Catholic Health Care for Women of Color
(Report to be released on Friday, January 19th, 2018)

________________________________
For questions or for further information about this program, please contact Liz Boylan, Associate Director of the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law at 212.854.0167or eboyla@law.columbia.edu.

New Report Highlights Dangers of Religious Exemption Laws for LGBT Elders

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Friday, December 15, 2017

Subject:  New Report Highlights Dangers of Religious Exemption Laws for LGBT Elders

From: The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project (PRPCP), Columbia Law School

Contact: Liz Boylan | eboyla@law.columbia.edu | 212.854.0167

*****

[New York] The Movement Advancement Project (MAP), the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project (PRPCP) at Columbia Law School, and SAGE, the nation’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBT elders, released a new report, Dignity Denied: Religious Exemptions and LGBT Elder Services. To download the report, visit http://www.lgbtmap.org/dignity-denied-lgbt-older-adults.

The report highlights the unique ways in which lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) elders are harmed by a growing number of laws and policies aimed at exempting religious organizations and individuals from following nondiscrimination and civil rights laws and policies.

By 2050, the number of people older than 65 will double to 83.7 million, and there are currently more than 2.7 million LGBT adults who are 50 years or older living across the country. LGBT elders face unique challenges to successful aging stemming from current and past structural and legal discrimination because of their sexual orientation, their gender identity, their age, and other factors like race. These risk factors are exacerbated by recent efforts at the local, state, and federal levels to allow those with religious or moral objections to be exempt from non-discrimination laws, leaving LGBT older adults vulnerable to increased risk for discrimination and mistreatment.

According to the report released by MAP, PRPCP at Columbia Law School, and SAGE, religiously affiliated organizations provide a majority of the services LGBT elders rely on for their most basic needs. LGBT older adults, like many older Americans in the United States, access a network of service providers for health care, community programming and congregate meals, food and income assistance, and housing, ranging from independent living to skilled in-home nursing. Approximately 85% of nonprofit continuing-care retirement communities are affiliated with a religion. Religiously affiliated facilities also provide the greatest number of affordable housing units that serve low-income seniors. Finally, 14% of hospitals in the United States are religiously affiliated, accounting for 17% of all the country’s hospital beds.

While many of these facilities provide quality care for millions of older adults, there exists a coordinated nationwide effort to pass religious exemption laws and policies, and file lawsuits that would allow individuals, businesses, and even government contractors and grantees to use religion as a basis for discriminating against a range of communities, including LGBT elders.

Dignity Denied: Religious Exemptions and LGBT Elder Services outlines myriad federal and state efforts to allow individuals, businesses, and organizations to opt out of following nondiscrimination laws as long as they cite a religious objection. While most providers will do the right thing when it comes to serving their clients, some will only do so when required by law. The report concludes that because so many service providers are religiously affiliated, these laws pose a considerable threat to the health and well-being of LGBT older adults.

In conjunction with the release of the report, a panel discussion is being held on Friday, December 15, at Union Theological Seminary at Columbia University featuring speakers from Center for Faith and Community Partnerships, The LGBT & HIV Project, American Civil Liberties Union, The Movement Advancement Project, The New Jewish Home, New York City Commission on Human Rights, Public Rights/Private Conscience Project, Columbia Law School, the Union Theological Seminary, and SAGE.

Watch the discussion live on SAGE’s Facebook page at SAGEUSA Facebook, starting at 12 noon on December 15. For more information about the event, visit http://www.utsnyc.edu/SAGE.

“This report and the amicus brief SAGE filed in the Masterpiece Cake case clearly demonstrate that personal religious beliefs should never be a license to discriminate against LGBT people or anybody else,” said Michael Adams, CEO of SAGE. “That’s why we are bringing together aging experts, religious leaders, and our elders, to expose the dangers that so-called ‘religious exemptions’ pose for LGBT elders who need care and services. We must not allow the door of a nursing home or other critical care provider to slam in LGBT elders’ faces just because of who they are and whom they love.”

“This important report reveals the many ways in which the privatization of elder services, largely to conservative religiously affiliated providers, leaves LGBT older adults no choice but to obtain care in facilities that do not welcome them,” observed Katherine Franke, Sulzbacher Professor of Law, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and Faculty Director of PRPCP at Columbia University. “The many LGBT elders who are adherents of faith-based traditions themselves suffer a special indignity when they are forced to seek care in settings that deny the dignity of both their LGBT identity and their faith-based beliefs.”

“LGBT older adults already are more likely to be isolated and vulnerable. It is unconscionable that state and federal governments are working to allow providers to deny critical health care services and vital social supports to LGBT older adults simply because of who they are,” said Ineke Mushovic, executive director of the Movement Advancement Project. “Imagine how much harder it would be to reach out for help if you knew the organizations that were supposed to help you could legally reject you, and the government would back them up.”

*****

The Movement Advancement Project (MAP) is an independent think tank that provides rigorous research, insight, and analysis that help speed equality for LGBT people. MAP works collaboratively with LGBT organizations, advocates and funders, providing information, analysis and resources that help coordinate and strengthen efforts for maximum impact. MAP’s policy research informs the public and policymakers about the legal and policy needs of LGBT people and their families.  Learn more at www.lgbtmap.org.

The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project at Columbia Law School’s (PRPCP) mission is to bring legal academic expertise to bear on the multiple contexts in which religious liberty rights conflict with or undermine other fundamental rights to equality and liberty. We undertake approaches to the developing law of religion that both respects the importance of religious liberty and recognizes the ways in which too broad an accommodation of these rights threatens Establishment Clause violations and can unsettle a proper balance with other competing fundamental rights. Our work takes the form of legal research and scholarship, public policy interventions, advocacy support, and academic and media publications.

SAGE is the country’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) older adults. Founded in 1978 and headquartered in New York City, SAGE is a national organization that offers supportive services and consumer resources to LGBT older adults and their caregivers, advocates for public policy changes that address the needs of LGBT older people, provides education and technical assistance for aging providers and LGBT organizations through its National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, and cultural competency training through SAGECare. Headquartered in New York City, with staff across the country, SAGE also coordinates a growing network of affiliates in the United States. Learn more at sageusa.org.

VIDEO: “Religious Exemptions 101: It Ain’t About the Cake”

Cross-posted to Medium

On Tuesday, December 5th, Professor Katherine Franke, Faculty Director of the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project at Columbia Law School, and Kira Shepherd, Director of the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project’s Racial Justice Program led a webinar with our project partners at Soulforce titled, “Religious Exemptions 101: It Ain’t About the Cake.

The webinar was presented on the day when oral arguments began in the Supreme Court case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.  In a recent article, Professor Katherine Franke and Johnathan Smith note that “the case as raises the important question of whether businesses can rely on religious justifications in order to avoid compliance with state’s non-discrimination laws.”

Soulforce’s primary goal in hosting the webinar was to create an open “discussion on how the abuse of religious exemption laws by Christian Supremacy culture target all marginalized people – especially People of Color, LGBTQI people, Women, and religious minorities – and will impact all of our civil rights” and to brainstorm ways in which participants could “work [to] untangle the logic of Christian Supremacy – the logic that absolves those who abuse these exemptions of the moral consequences that come with their weaponized religions.”

A video of the webinar is available via Soulforce Media’s channel on Youtube at the link embedded below.  If you have trouble accessing the video at the link below, please paste the following URL into your browser bar to navigate to the video directly:  http://bit.ly/2Ba3NVG.

The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project joins the #OpentoAll Campaign

Cross-posted to Medium and the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law Blog

The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project and the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School are pleased to be co-supporters of the Open to All campaign.  Launched by the Movement Advancement Project in November, the Open to All campaign addresses how the engagement of #ReligiousExemptions by service providers to refuse service to persons on the basis of their religious beliefs undermines anti-discrimination laws in the United States.

The Open to All Campaign comes as the Supreme Court of the United States is hearing arguments in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.  The owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop claims that he has a right to refuse service to persons on the basis of his religious beliefs, and that if he were required to bake and decorate a cake for a same-sex marriage, this would represent a substantial burden of his religious liberty rights.

Masterpiece Cakeshop, however, is about anything but cake: it is about an individual’s desire to be exempted from anti-discrimination laws in the United States, thereby upholding White Christian Supremacy in the United States over minority populations.  On its face, a decision in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop would be a boon for “religious liberties” in the United States, however, the precedent it would set is the privileging of a white Christian majority’s caprices over the rights of marginalized persons.

Professor Katherine Franke, Director of the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law, and Faculty Director of the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project wrote on this issue with Johnathan Smith of Muslim Advocates in Slate on December 4th, noting, “A victory for Phillips would not only harm people of faith, but also those who value our nation’s commitment to religious pluralism and civic equality.”

The Op-Ed by Franke and Smith follows on the submission of an amicus brief in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission in October of this year by the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project and Muslim Advocates on behalf of 15 community-based organizations.  The amicus argues that:

…non-discrimination laws, such as the Colorado law at issue in this case, often play an indispensable role in protecting the rights of religious communities. These laws serve as a critically important check against discrimination by businesses, employers, landlords, others; without such protections, individuals or groups—especially those outside the mainstream—would not be able to fully participate in civil society, and would be vulnerable to unjust persecution and harassment at every turn.

In following on the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project’s work in this arena, PRPCP and the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law are pleased to be parties to the “Open to All” campaign.  The campaign mission statement notes that:

Open to All is a nationwide campaign to help protect our nation’s nondiscrimination laws. These laws ensure that when businesses open their doors to the public, they serve everyone on the same terms. But these laws are under attack. Those who don’t want to follow nondiscrimination laws are trying to claim that their religious beliefs mean federal and state nondiscrimination laws should not apply to them—and they are also asking the Supreme Court to create a right to discriminate in our nation’s Constitution.

Learn more about the Open to All campaign at www.opentoall.org.

Read Professor Franke and Johnathan Smith’s Op-ed at Slate, here.

Read the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project’s amicus brief in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission here.

Media Advisory: Experts Available for Interviews on Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission

MEDIA ADVISORY

12/5: SCOTUS Hearing – Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission
Religious Freedom or Discrimination?

Experts Available for Interviews on Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission

Columbia Law School Professor Katherine Franke and Elizabeth Platt Filed an Amicus Brief in the Case on Behalf of a Coalition of 15 Civil Rights and Faith Organizations.

* * * * *

Media Contacts:

The Office of Public Affairs, Columbia Law School
212.854.2650
publicaffairs@law.columbia.edu

Elizabeth Boylan, Associate Director, Center for Gender & Sexuality Law
212.854.0167
eboyla@law.columbia.edu

* * * * *

New York, December 1, 2017—Columbia Law School Professor Katherine Franke, a leading expert on law, religion and rights— drawing from feminist, queer, and critical race theory—and Elizabeth Platt, Director of The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project (PRPCP), are available to discuss Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the case in which a baker claims that free speech protects his right to refuse to make a cake for a same-sex wedding.

Oral arguments will be presented Tuesday before the Supreme Court.

In October, under the aegis of The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project, Franke and Platt filed an amicus brief in the case on behalf of a coalition of 15 civil rights and faith organizations. They argued that overly broad accommodations of religious liberty undermine not just LGBT rights but religious liberty itself.

“The Supreme Court’s most significant religious liberty cases have drawn a connection between the protection of religious liberty and principles of non-discrimination,” Franke said about the case. “Masterpiece Cakeshop’s argument throws a wedge between these two fundamental American values, a position that poses a particularly dangerous threat to the rights of people of minority faith traditions.”

The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project is a think tank housed within the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School. Its mission is to bring legal, policy, advocacy, and academic expertise to bear on the multiple contexts in which religious liberty rights conflict with or undermine other fundamental rights to equality and liberty.

* * * * *

Note: The Law School also has a broadcast studio on campus equipped with an ISDN line and TV connectivity through VideoLink. Please contact the Public Affairs Office for bookings.

Media Advisory – Dignity Denied: Religious Exemptions and LGBT Elders

Dignity Denied: Religious Exemptions and LGBT Elders

Media Advisory: The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project joins SAGE and the Movement Advancement Project announce the release of a groundbreaking report entitled, Dignity Denied: Religious Liberties and Elder Care, on the negative impacts Religious exemption laws and policies have on elder LGBT persons in the United States, and how these policies put elder LGBT persons at risk of discrimination.

Date:
Friday, December 15, 2017
12:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Location:
Union Theological Seminary
Columbia University in the City of New York
3041 Broadway (at West 121 Street), Room 207
New York, NY 10027

Press Contact:
Liz Boylan
Associate Director, Center for Gender & Sexuality Law, Columbia Law School
212.854.0167 | eboyla@law.columbia.edu.

[NEW YORK] The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project is thrilled to join SAGE, the nation’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBT elders, and the Movement Advancement Project in announcing the release of a groundbreaking report on how Religious exemption laws and policies have a disproportionately negative impact on elder LGBT persons in the United States.

The report will be launched with a panel discussion and luncheon on Friday, December 15th at Columbia University’s Union Theological Seminary.  The program will detail the increased risks LGBT older adults face as a result of recent religious exemption laws and policies that enable a “right to discriminate.”

This program is free and open to the public.  Please RSVP via: utsnyc.edu/SAGE

  • Alex Sheldon, Research Analyst, The Movement Advancement Project
  • Audrey Weiner, President and CEO, The New Jewish Home
  • Carmelyn P. Malalis, Chair and Commissioner, New York City Commission on Human Rights
  • Fred Davie, Executive Vice President, Union Theological Seminary
  • Jonathan Soto, NYC Mayor’s Office: Executive Director of the Center for Faith and Community Partnerships
  • Katherine Franke, Professor of Law and Faculty Director of the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project, Columbia Law School
  • Michael Adams, CEO, SAGE
  • Rose Saxe, Senior Staff Attorney, LGBT & HIV Project, American Civil Liberties Union
  • Sandy Warshaw, SAGE Constituent

“This report, and the amicus brief SAGE filed in the Masterpiece Cake case, clearly demonstrate that personal religious beliefs should never be a license to discriminate against LGBT people or anybody else,” says Michael Adams, CEO of SAGE. “That’s why we are bringing together aging experts, religious leaders, and our elders, to expose the dangers that so-called “religious exemptions” pose for LGBT elders who need care and services. We must not allow the doors of a nursing home or a critical care provider to slam in LGBT elders’ faces just because of who they are and whom they love.”

Columbia Law School Think Tank Files Amicus Brief in SCOTUS Case

In Masterpiece Cakeshop Case, Diverse Organizations Argue Anti-discrimination Laws Protect, Not Burden, Religious Liberty

For Immediate Release: October 31, 2017

Subject: Columbia Law School Think Tank Files Amicus Brief in SCOTUS Case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission

From: The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project (PRPCP), Columbia Law School

Contact: Liz Boylan | eboyla@law.columbia.edu | 212.854.0167

Yesterday, Columbia Law School’s Public Rights/Private Conscience Project and Muslim Advocates filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission on behalf of a coalition of 15 diverse civil rights and faith organizations. At issue in Masterpiece Cakeshop is whether the owners of a Colorado public establishment may, due to their own private religious beliefs, refuse service to individuals because of their sexual orientation.

The amicus brief argues that overly-broad accommodations of religious liberty, such as that requested by Masterpiece Cakeshop, undermine not just LGBT rights but religious liberty itself.  As the brief explains: “There can be no dispute that anti-discrimination laws have long played a crucial role in protecting the rights of religious minorities. Petitioners’ requested exemption will dramatically limit—if not completely eliminate—that protection.”

Today’s filing also highlights that interconnectedness of religious freedom and robust anti-discrimination laws.  In fact, the brief makes clear that our country’s “constitutional commitment to religious liberty has always entailed a corollary commitment to non-discrimination. Indeed, the integrity of the former has always relied upon the enforcement of the latter. ”

The coalition of civil rights and faith organizations that submitted this amicus brief to the Supreme Court represent the vast diversity within American faith communities.  The signatories include:  Muslim Public Affairs Council, American Humanist Association, DignityUSA, Sikh Coalition, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, Capital Area Muslim Bar Association, Advocates for Youth, Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity, National LGBT Bar Association, Interfaith Alliance Foundation, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and New Jersey Muslim Lawyers Association (NJMLA).

“The Supreme Court’s most significant religious liberty cases have drawn a connection between the protection of religious liberty and principles of non-discrimination,” said Katherine Franke, Professor of Law and Faculty Director of the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project at Columbia Law School.  “Masterpiece Cakeshop’s argument throws a wedge between these two fundamental American values, a position that poses a particularly dangerous threat to the rights of people of minority faith traditions.”

“Religious liberty and non-discrimination are inextricably tied to one another and should not be traded off against each other,” said Johnathan Smith, legal director at Muslim Advocates.  “When robust civil rights protections are undermined, religious groups have no recourse to defend themselves against discrimination.  A ruling in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop would undercut fundamental civil rights protections that are critical for maintaining this country’s longstanding commitments to religious freedom and religious pluralism.”

The amicus brief was authored by Columbia Law School’s Public Rights/Private Conscience Project, Muslim Advocates, and the law firm Hogan Lovells.  The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in Masterpiece Cakeshop on Tuesday, December 5.

A copy of the brief is available here.

Muslim Advocates is a national legal advocacy and educational organization that works on the frontlines of civil rights to guarantee freedom and justice for Americans of all faiths.

The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project is a think tank housed within the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School. Our mission is to bring legal, policy, advocacy, and academic expertise to bear on the multiple contexts in which religious liberty rights conflict with or undermine other fundamental rights to equality and liberty.

 

Columbia Law Experts Denounce Federal Guidance Allowing Religious and Moral Discrimination in Contraceptive Coverage

Press Statement: October 6, 2017

Liz Boylan, eboyla@law.columbia.edu, 212.854.0167

Columbia Law School’s Public Rights/Private Conscience Project (PRPCP) condemns the Trump administration for issuing sweeping new rules today that roll back the Affordable Care Act (ACA)’s birth control benefit, by broadening exemptions for employers who claim religious or moral objections to offering birth control to their workers. These regulations place the religious and moral views of employers above the health and wellbeing of their workers and gut the contraceptive coverage provision of the ACA by dramatically reducing access to affordable birth control. Rather than protecting religious freedom for all Americans, these regulations are part of the current administration’s ongoing effort to advance a limited set of conservative religious beliefs while limiting the liberty and equality rights of women, LGBTQ people, people of color, and religious minorities.

For over seven years, the religious right has waged a battle to limit the scope of preventive health care services covered by the ACA, including essential reproductive health care. In 2014, they won a significant victory when the Supreme Court ruled in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that secular for-profit companies could assert religion-based waivers from the duty to include health care coverage for contraceptives in their employee health plans. The Court’s opinion hinged, however, on the fact that women would still have access to such care, which would be covered by their insurance plan rather that their employer. After another three years of litigation and intense lobbying, anti-choice advocates have at long last succeeded in making it possible for employers to entirely cut off their employee’s access to contraceptive coverage, not only because of their religious objections, but now because of their moral objections as well.

In depriving workers and their families of essential health care coverage, the regulation violates both the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. By requiring workers to bear the cost of their employer’s religious beliefs, the regulation conflicts with a clear line of Supreme Court cases which hold that where a government-created religious accommodation imposes serious harms on others, it ceases to be a valid protection of personal faith and instead becomes an unconstitutional establishment of religion.

“With these new rules, the federal government is giving the green light to employers to discriminate against their women workers, and those seeking access to reproductive care, in the name of religious liberty or individual moral belief,” said Katherine Franke, Sulzbacher Professor of Law at Columbia Law School and Faculty Director of the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project. “The fundamental health care needs of working women are now held hostage by right wing interest groups,” Franke concluded.

As PRPCP’s Racial Justice Program (RJP) has noted in the past, these types of rules have an especially devastating impact on women of color. Women of color have higher unintended pregnancy rates than their white counterparts and face increasing difficulties in accessing care. Eliminating these disparities requires increasing access to contraception and family planning resources, which allow women of color to plan whether and when they have a child, which research has shown provides them with greater financial stability and freedom. “Research shows that teen pregnancy rates have dropped to an all-time low in recent years due to increased access to affordable, quality contraception and education about family planning,” said Kira Shepherd, Director of PRPCP’s Racial Justice Program. “Native Americans, Black communities and Latinas, who have the highest teen pregnancy rates of all communities, stand to be harmed the most by these new rules, which limit young women’s and people’s ability to make informed choices about their reproductive health and lives. Here, the Trump administration has once again shown that it cares little about the health and wellbeing of communities of color.”

“President Trump’s repeated efforts to ban immigration from majority-Muslim countries—which a circuit court said drips ‘with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination’—demonstrate that the administration is not concerned with protecting religious freedom for everyone,” said Elizabeth Reiner Platt, Director of PRPCP. “These rules are just another demonstration of the ongoing effort to push conservative religious beliefs about sex, marriage, and reproduction onto others who do not share those beliefs.”

Access a .pdf of this statement here: http://tinyurl.com/PRPCP-Release-ACA-10-6

Learn more about PRPCP’s staff here: http://tinyurl.com/PRPCP-Staff

For more information on the PRPCP, visit our website: http://tinyurl.com/PRPCP-Columbia