Category Archives: Uncategorized

Professors of Law and Religion File Brief Supporting Arizona Immigration Rights Activist’s Use of RFRA as a Defense to Federal Criminal Prosecution

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MEDIA CONTACTS:

Professor Katherine Franke, katherine.franke@columbia.edu

No More Deaths, dropthecharges@nomoredeaths.org, 520.282.2993

June 21, 2018: Today, five prominent professors of law and religion filed an amicus brief in support of Dr. Scott Warren, a humanitarian aid worker who faces up to twenty years in prison for providing food and shelter to migrants crossing the Arizona desert. The amicus was filed in an Arizona federal court, and contends that Dr. Warren is entitled to an accommodation from being criminally prosecuted for acting on his sincerely held religious beliefs. Dr. Warren, is a member of No More Deaths/No Mas Muertes, a humanitarian aid organization that works to reduce deaths and suffering along the US-Mexico border by providing water, food and clothing to migrants crossing the Arizona desert. When doing this work, humanitarian workers routinely discover the bodies of migrants who have died due to lack of water, food or shelter in the rugged and remote desert terrain.

Last January, Warren was arrested and charged with three felonies for “harboring migrants” after Border Patrol agents allegedly witnessed him giving food and water to two migrants in the desert near Cabeza Prieta national wildlife refuge in Southern Arizona. Warren was arrested shortly after No More Deaths released a report documenting the systematic destruction by Border Patrol of water and food supplies left in the desert for migrants. Over a nearly four-year period, 3,856 gallons of water had been destroyed by federal officials. The report linked to video showing border patrol agents kicking over gallons and pouring them out onto the ground.

Warren has filed a motion to dismiss the indictment in his case under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), arguing that his sincerely held religious beliefs compel him to provide aid to people who are suffering – and dying – in the desert. Warren testified at the evidentiary hearing on his RFRA motion that for him “providing humanitarian aid is a sacred act.” He also described how spiritually devastated he has been when he has come upon human remains in the desert: “The work that we do in discovering, working to identify and recover the people who have died is one of the most sacred things that we can do as humanitarian aid workers in Southern Arizona and in the desert … we witness and we are present for people and for their families, the people who have died and who have perished.” When asked why he risked violating the law by providing water, food and clothing to migrants in the desert, he testified “Based on my spiritual beliefs, I am compelled to act. I’m drawn to act. I have to act when someone is in need.”

Katherine Franke, Sulzbacher Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, authored the brief on behalf of herself and Caroline Mala Corbin, Professor of Law at the University of Miami School of Law, Micah J. Schwartzman, Joseph W. @PRPCP_Columbia facebook.com/PRPCP @PRPCP_Columbia Dorn Research Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law, Elizabeth Sepper, Professor of Law at Washington University School of Law, and Nelson Tebbe, Professor of Law at Cornell Law School.

“Given that this is the first case in which a RFRA claim has been raised as a defense in a federal criminal prosecution under immigration law we felt it was important that we provide the judge guidance on how to structure his consideration of a religious liberty claim in this context,” said Professor Franke. “The relation of religion to immigration law enforcement is all the more compelling given that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has quoted biblical text to justify the federal government’s aggressive immigration policies,” she continued. The law professors’ amicus brief is available here.

Media Contacts:

Professor Katherine Franke, katherine.franke@columbia.edu
No More Deaths, dropthecharges@nomoredeaths.org, 520.282.2993

Columbia Law Scholars’ Analysis of President Trump’s Travel Ban and the pending SCOTUS decision in Trump v. Hawaii

The Supreme Court of the United States is expected to provide a ruling in the case of Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, et al., Petitioners v. Hawaii, et al. on Monday, June 25th, 2018. The case, to be decided upon by the Supreme Court, was appealed by President Trump to Justice Kennedy on November 20th, 2017, and deals with President Trump’s Executive Orders on Travel and Immigration, frequently referred to as the “Muslim Ban.”
The focus of the case is the constitutionality of the third and most recent iteration of President Trump’s Ban on Travel and Immigration, informally known as the “Travel Ban 3.0”.  The first travel ban, issued as an Executive Order on January 27th, 2017, just one week after Trump took office, was blocked by Federal District Court Judge James Robart of Seattle, in a nationwide restraining order on February 3rd, 2017.  The second iteration was issued on March 6th, 2017, and subsequently blocked by the District Court of Hawaii on March 15th, 2017. The third iteration was issued on September 24th, 2017, and subsequently blocked by the U.S. District Court of Hawaii on October 17th, 2017.
A core concern regarding the multiple iterations of the travel ban has been the ways in which countries that would face greater travel restrictions were selected –  the initial ban focused on restrictions on the number of Syrian refugees the United States would accept, rescinded a number of visas, and imposed restrictions on travel to persons from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, and Libya. The title of the initial executive order, (Executive Order 13769), “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” plays upon Islamophobic fears, which right-wing politicians have used to leverage support for anti-immigration policies. All 7 of the countries listed in Executive Order 13769 have populations a Muslim majority, and President Donald Trump’s history of xenophobic comments both during his campaign and through his time in office served as strong indicators to many that the “travel ban” would cause disproportionate harm to Muslim individuals.
The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project has followed the progress of President Trump’s Executive Orders regarding travel and immigration, and our team members have written detailed analyses of President Trump’s policies, the Travel bans, and their implications – with particular regard towards the balance of religious liberty and other fundamental rights.
As we await the Supreme Court’s ruling in Trump v. Hawaii, we collect here our work on these issues over the past 17 months.  Most recently, following the Supreme Court’s ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, Elizabeth Reiner Platt analyzed how the language and arguments engaged in the Supreme Court’s ruling and in the Justices’ opinions may bear on the outcome of Trump v. Hawaii.

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January 30th, 2017
Trump’s Executive Order Barring Refugees is Unconstitutional

The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project Blog, Columbia Law School
Access the full .pdf here

The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project issued a press release analyzing how Trump’s Executive Order was unconstitutional, as the order expresses a religious preference that violates the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

“The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project joins with thousands of lawyers, law professors, and legal organizations across the country in announcing that President Donald Trump’s recent Executive Order writing a religious preference into U.S. policy is unconstitutional. The order suspends the entire U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, declares that “entry of nationals of Syria as refugees is detrimental to the interests of the United States,” and cuts off entry into the U.S. for nationals of certain majority-Muslim countries. Several provisions of the order are clearly intended to block immigration by Muslim refugees while providing a preference for some Christian refugees to escape violence and persecution by resettling in the U.S. The Executive Order amounts to both a form of state sponsored discrimination against persons of one particular faith and a religious preference for persons of another faith, in violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution.”

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January 30, 2017
Church, State & The Trump Administration
The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project
Blog Post, The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project Blog
Access the full report here

Following the first week of the presidency of Donald J. Trump, scholars from the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project issued a document outlining the ways we anticipated the Trump administration would seek to advance particular conservative Christian tenets, restrict the rights of religious minorities, and break down the barrier between church and state. Enactment of the administration’s policy priorities (which we have seen in the ensuing months since the initial publication of this memo) call into question the careful balance between the First Amendment and other fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution.

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January 31, 2017
Trump Attempts to Pit LGBTQ Communities, People of Color, and Women Against Muslim Refugees and Immigrants
Ashe McGovern, Rewire News
Access the full article, here

Ashe McGovern, Legislative and Policy Director with the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project, wrote at Rewire.News on how the January 27th Executive Order engaged insidious rhetoric such as pink-washing, and ‘divide-and-conquer’ tactics historically used to isolate oppressed groups from joining in solidarity with one another.

“On the whole, the order is dangerous, misguided, and deeply rooted in this administration’s commitment to a xenophobic, racist, and Islamophobic agenda. However, two sections in particular highlight a manipulative tactic that is becoming standard practice within the Trump administration: obscuring the destructive impact of an action on some marginalized communities by couching it in a feigned concern for ‘protecting’ others.”

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February 16, 2017
What Muslim Ban? A Religious Liberty Hearing in the Trump Era
Elizabeth Reiner Platt, Religion Dispatches
Access the article, here
In this thoughtful piece at Religion Dispatches, Elizabeth Reiner Platt, Director of the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project,  discusses the rhetoric engaged by Trump supporters in discussing President Trump’s Executive Order on Travel and Immigration, with particular regard to the rights of religious minorities. The piece also discusses the language and rhetoric engaged in the Executive order in relation to information leaked at the time of publication regarding President Trump’s Executive Order on religious liberty.

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March 14, 2017
Because You’re Not Fooling Anyone: Why Trump Travel Ban 2.0 is Still Unconstitutional
Elizabeth Reiner Platt, Religion Dispatches
Access the full article, here.

Elizabeth Reiner Platt analyzed the second iteration of President Trump’s ban on travel and immigration, discussing the ways in which the language of the second iteration was shifted to ostensibly avoid violating the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.  Platt analyzes this rhetoric and the language of the second travel ban in the context of other cases, highlighting elements that arguably violate the U.S. Constitution.
“Trump’s second attempt at banning travel from certain Muslim-majority countries is clearly written to avoid being struck down under the Establishment Clause. Most notably, it no longer contains provisions that preference entry for religious minorities—language the President himself admitted was intended to prioritize entry for Christian rather than Muslim refugees.

So why isn’t the new EO constitutional, at least with regard to First Amendment claims? Because cutting its most obviously discriminatory provision doesn’t fix the fact that the new EO was passed with the same invalid purpose as the President’s first attempt—to reduce Muslim immigration into the U.S. When a candidate campaigns for nearly two years on the promise of banning, profiling, and even registering Muslims, that is context that a court can—and should—consider in evaluating whether his actions are motivated by religious animus or legitimate security concerns.”

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June 5, 2018
Will SCOTUS’s New Zeal for “Neutrality” Affect its Decision on the “Muslim Ban”?
Elizabeth Reiner Platt, Religion Dispatches, Rewire News
Access the full article here 

Elizabeth Reiner Platt analyzes the rhetoric and language engaged by the Supreme Court of the United States in the ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission (issued on June 4th, 2018), in regards to the Court’s pending decision in the case of Trump v. Hawaii.

“Of course the elephant in the courtroom is not how the Court’s repeated emphasis on religious neutrality squares with its past decisions, but how it will affect the other most important religion case this term—Trump v. Hawaii, the challenge to President Trump’s ‘Muslim ban.’ In Masterpiece, the Court explained that ‘Factors relevant to the assessment of governmental neutrality include… the specific series of events leading to the enactment or official policy in question, and the legislative or administrative history, including contemporaneous statements made by members of the decisionmaking body.’ But it remains to be seen whether the Court will choose to engage in the same rigorous assessment of these factors in the travel ban case with regard to the president’s considerable history of disparaging statements about Muslims and his call for a ‘total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.'”

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June 6, 2018
What Implication does the Supreme Court’s Decision in #MasterpieceCakeshop  have for the #MuslimBan?
Liz Boylan, Public Rights/Private Conscience Project Blog
Access the blog post here

The blog post highlights PRPCP Scholar Elizabeth Reiner Platt’s article with Religion Dispatches regarding the Muslim Ban Case, and the ways in which the Supreme Court’s ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission may influence or ultimately be divergent from their ruling in their forthcoming ruling in Trump v. Hawaii.

“The article specifically discusses the language engaged by the Justices with particular regard to the concepts of ‘neutrality’ and ‘religious neutrality.’ The case, of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, brought to the fore issues regarding religious liberty, individual freedom, civil rights, and debates about the interpretation of Constitutional Law.

As the Supreme Court is expected to provide a decision in the next few weeks in regards to the case of Trump v. Hawaii, the court’s engagement of language related to these issues is of key interest.  At stake in Trump v. Hawaii is the constitutionality of President Donald Trump’s travel ban, more commonly referred to as the ‘Muslim Ban’ for the ways in which it’s language has been interpreted as being indicative of bias against Muslim persons and countries with large populations of Muslim citizens.”

* * * * *

The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project team is available for comment regarding these pieces and issues directly related to this case and our other work – to contact Professor Katherine Franke, Elizabeth Reiner Platt, or Kira Shepherd, please reach out to Elizabeth Boylan, Associate Director for the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law at 212.854.0167 or eboyla@law.columbia.edu.

What Implication does the Supreme Court’s Decision in #MasterpieceCakeshop have for the #MuslimBan?

Elizabeth Reiner Platt, Director of PRPCP, has written an article with Religion Dispatches (an outlet of Rewire.News) providing analysis and reflection on the Supreme Court’s ruling on June 4th in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, “Will SCOTUS’ New Zeal for “Neutrality” Affect its Decision on the “Muslim Ban”?

The article specifically discusses the language engaged by the Justices with particular regard to the concepts of “neutrality” and “religious neutrality.” The case, of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, brought to the fore issues regarding religious liberty, individual freedom, civil rights, and debates about the interpretation of Constitutional Law.

As the Supreme Court is expected to provide a decision in the next few weeks in regards to the case of Trump v. Hawaii, the court’s engagement of language related to these issues is of key interest.  At stake in Trump v. Hawaii is the constitutionality of President Donald Trump’s travel ban, more commonly referred to as the “Muslim Ban” for the ways in which it’s language has been interpreted as being indicative of bias against Muslim persons and countries with large populations of Muslim citizens.

An excerpt from the article follows below:

Of course the elephant in the courtroom is not how the Court’s repeated emphasis on religious neutrality squares with its past decisions, but how it will affect the other most important religion case this term—Trump v. Hawaii, the challenge to President Trump’s “Muslim ban.” In Masterpiece, the Court explained that “Factors relevant to the assessment of governmental neutrality include… the specific series of events leading to the enactment or official policy in question, and the legislative or administrative history, including contemporaneous statements made by members of the decisionmaking body.’” But it remains to be seen whether the Court will choose to engage in the same rigorous assessment of these factors in the travel ban case with regard to the president’s considerable history of disparaging statements about Muslims and his call for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

The full article from Elizabeth Reiner Platt may be accessed via Rewire.News’ Religion Dispatches page, here.
Elizabeth Reiner Platt is the Director of the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project, and a thought leader on core issues related to the balance of law, rights, and religion in contemporary discourse and practice.  She is available for interview and comment regarding this piece, the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project, and the Supreme Court’s decisions in these and other related cases. We encourage you to reach out should you have any further questions.
For Media Inquiries, Contact:

Elizabeth Boylan, Associate Director, Center for Gender & Sexuality Law

Contact Details:

eboyla@law.columbia.edu | 212.854.0167

PRESS RELEASE: Columbia Law School’s Public Rights/Private Conscience Project Co-hosts a Capitol Hill Briefing To Highlight The Impact That Religious Health Care Refusals Have On Women of Color

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Columbia Law School’s Public Rights/Private Conscience Project Co-hosts a Capitol Hill Briefing To Highlight The Impact That Religious Health Care Refusals Have On Women of Color

Media Contacts:

Liz Boylan: 212.854.0167, eboyla@law.columbia.edu
Kira Shepherd: 212.854.8079, ks3377@columbia.edu

New York, May 23, 2018: Columbia Law School’s Public Rights/Private Conscience Project and the National Women’s Law Center will host a Capitol Hill Briefing at 10:15am, Thursday, May 24th to discuss the impact of religious health care refusals on women of color. The event, entitled Devalued, Turned Away, and Refused Health Care: What Happens to Women of Color When Religion Dictates Patient Carewill be presented in cooperation with Senator Kamala Harris and Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman.

Pregnant women of color, particularly black and Latina women, are at greater risk of being deprived of a range of reproductive health services in many U.S. states as a result of their disproportionate use of Catholic hospitals, according to the report Bearing Faith: The Limits of Catholic Health Care for Women of Color. The report, which was published earlier this year by the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project in partnership with Public Health Solutions, analyzes racial disparities in birth rates at hospitals that place religious restrictions on health care.  The Trump Administration’s consistent efforts to expand religious health care refusals threaten to exacerbate the impact of these refusals on the health and well-being of women of color.

This Thursday’s briefing will include remarks from experts in the field of reproductive justice, racial justice, and public health, including Kira Shepherd, Director of the Racial Justice Program with the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project, Professor Lori Freedman of the University of California, San Francisco; Naomi Washington-Leapheart, Faith Work Director for of the National LGBTQ Task Force; Toni Bond Leonard, a Reproductive Justice expert and Religious Scholar; Candace Gibson, Staff Attorney with the National Health Law Program, and Fatima Goss Graves, President and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center.

This event is free and open to the public and the press. Registration is required, via the National Women’s Law Center at the following URL: https://bit.ly/2L9QQxI.

PRESS ADVISORY: PRPCP Responds to the Reintroduction of FADA in U.S. Senate

Press Advisory
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
March 8, 2018 

SUBJECT:

“First Amendment Defense Act” (FADA) is reintroduced in the Senate. Bill would establish vague, overly broad, and unnecessary religious accommodations and would seriously harm other Americans’ legal rights and protections. 

CONTENT:

“Not only is this bill unnecessary to the protection of religious liberty in the United States, its language would be harmful to the constitutional rights of millions of Americans.”

CONTACTS:

Professor Katherine Franke, 212-854-0061, kfranke@law.columbia.edu
Elizabeth Reiner Platt, 212-854-8079, ep2801@columbia.edu

New York, March 8, 2018–The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project is dismayed that the deceptively named “First Amendment Defense Act” (FADA) was reintroduced into the U.S. Senate today by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and 21 Republican co-sponsors, including Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Ted Cruz (Texas) and Orrin Hatch (Utah).  Not only is this bill unnecessary to the protection of religious liberty in the United States, its language would be harmful to the constitutional rights of millions of Americans.

The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project Faculty Director, Columbia Law Professor Katherine Franke, testified against the First Amendment Defense Act on behalf of twenty leading legal scholars when it was pending in Congress in 2016.  In her testimony before the House Governmental Oversight Committee she provided an in-depth analysis of the meaning and likely effects of the proposed legislation, were it to become law.  The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project was particularly compelled to provide testimony to the Committee because the first legislative finding set out in FADA declares that: “Leading legal scholars concur that conflicts between same-sex marriage and religious liberty are real and should be addressed through legislation.”  As leading legal scholars we must correct this statement: we do not concur that conflicts between same-sex marriage and religious liberty are real, nor do we hold the view that any such conflict should be addressed through legislation. On the contrary, we maintained that religious liberty rights are already well protected in the U.S. Constitution and in existing federal and state legislation, rendering FADA both unnecessary and harmful.

The Act purports to protect free exercise of religion and prevent discrimination, yet in fact it risks unsettling a well-considered constitutional balance between religious liberty, the prohibition on government endorsement of or entanglement with religion, and other equally fundamental rights.

Professor Franke’s testimony can be found here.

This legislation failed to come to a vote and died in Committee in 2016.  It should receive the same fate today.

The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project

The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project’s 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.

To learn more, please visit us at: http://www.law.columbia.edu/gender-sexuality/public-rights-private-conscience-project

 

Kira Shepherd, Director of the Racial Justice Project, to Moderate ABA Webinar on Civil Rights Protection in HHS

Wednesday, March 7, 2018
Announcement: Kira Shepherd, Director of Racial Justice Project, to Moderate ABA Webinar on Civil Rights Protection in HHS
Registration: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2177755790753598211

Tomorrow, March 8th, 2018, Kira Shepherd, Director of the Racial Justice Program with the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project will be moderating a discussion for the American Bar Association, titled, “Civil Rights Protection for Discrimination? Recent Developments in the HHS Office of Civil Rights.” Kira will be joined by panelists:

  • Jennifer C. Pizer, Law and Policy Director at Lambda Legal
  • Susan Berke Fogel, Director of Reproductive Health at NHeLP, and
  • Jamille Fields, of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America

The webinar will begin at 1:00 pm EST; Registration is required via GotoWebinar.com, at the following link: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2177755790753598211

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

A summary description of the discussion’s content follows:

On January 18, 2018, the Trump Administration announced a new division of the HHS Office for Civil Rights focused on the rights of health care providers to determine or deny care depending on the provider’s religious conviction. The following day, HHS issued a proposed rule to broaden the scope of existing laws that permit denials to care, and grant OCR new outreach, investigative, and enforcement authority to ensure that federal funding recipients defer to providers’ personal and institutional beliefs over patients’ needs. How are these developments likely to affect patients’ ability to obtain necessary health care? Is this new policy likely to have particular impacts on vulnerable communities such as transgender people, women and people of color? Does the new policy strike an appropriate balance between the rights of patients and the rights of providers? Our panel of experts will discuss the new division and rule in depth and offer their views of what appears to be expanded protection for health care refusals.

Kira Shepherd

Kira Shepherd is the Director of the Racial Justice Program at the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project at the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School. Before joining Columbia Law School she was the Executive Director and Director of Campaigns at The Black Institute (TBI), an action think tank that leads advocacy work in the areas of immigration, education, the environment, and economic justice.  Prior to working at TBI, Kira was a Campaign Manager at ColorOfChange.org, the nation’s largest online civil rights organization, where she worked on criminal justice and corporate accountability campaigns.  She also worked at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center where she managed a city-wide youth advocacy project that was instituted in every public high school in Philadelphia.  Kira has also worked with Families for Freedom, a human rights organization by and for families facing and fighting deportation, and Make the Road New York, the largest member-led economic justice group in New York.  Kira graduated from Rutgers University School of Law, Newark with a Juris Doctorate degree.

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.

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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

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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.”
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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)

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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

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[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.”

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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.