Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

MARCI A. HAMILTON is the Fels Institute of Government Professor of Practice, and Fox Family Pavilion Resident Senior Fellow in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania. She is also the founder, CEO, and Academic Director of CHILD USA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit academic think tank at the University of Pennsylvania dedicated to interdisciplinary, evidence-based research to prevent child abuse and neglect. Before moving to the University of Pennsylvania, Professor Hamilton was the Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University.

Hamilton is the leading expert on child sex abuse statutes of limitations and has submitted testimony and advised legislators in every state where significant reform has occurred. She is the author of Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children (Cambridge University Press), which advocates for the elimination of child sex abuse statutes of limitations. She has filed countless pro bono amicus briefs for the protection of children at the United States Supreme Court and the state supreme courts. Her textbook, Children and the Law, co-authored with Martin Gardner, will be published Fall 2017 by Carolina Academic Press, formerly Lexis/Nexis.

Hamilton has been a vocal and influential critic of extreme religious liberty, advocating for the vulnerable about overreaching. Hamilton successfully challenged the constitutionality of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) at the Supreme Court in Boerne v. Flores (1997), and defeated the RFRA claim brought by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee against hundreds of child sex abuse survivors in Committee of Unsecured Creditors v. Listecki (7th Cir. 2015). She has represented numerous cities dealing with church-state issues as well as claims brought under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA). The author of God vs. the Gavel: The Perils of Extreme Religious Liberty (Cambridge University Press), which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, she is also a columnist for Verdict on Justia.com.

Hamilton has been honored with the 2018 Pennsylvania State University Department of Philosophy Distinguished Alumni Award, the 2017 University of Pennsylvania Law School Louis H. Pollak Public Service Award, the 2016 Voice Today, Voice of Gratitude Award; the 2015 Religious Liberty Award, American Humanist Association; the 2014 Freethought Heroine Award; the National Crime Victim Bar Association’s Frank Carrington Champion of Civil Justice Award, 2012; the E. Nathaniel Gates Award for outstanding public advocacy and scholarship, 2008; and selected as a Pennsylvania Woman of the Year Award, 2012, among others. She is also frequently quoted in the national media on child abuse and neglect, statute of limitations, constitutional, RFRA, RLUIPA, and First Amendment issues.

Hamilton clerked for United States Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Judge Edward R. Becker of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Professor Hamilton is a graduate of Vanderbilt University, B.A., summa cum laude; Pennsylvania State University, M.A. (English, fiction writing, High Honors); M.A. (Philosophy); and the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, J.D., magna cum laude, where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Order of the Coif.

Columns by Marci A. Hamilton
The Biggest Threat to Herd Immunity Against COVID-19 May Be the Religious Freedom Restoration Act(s) and State Religious Exemptions

Marci A. Hamilton—a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the country’s leading church-state scholars—argues that the biggest threats to herd immunity against COVID-19 are federal and state religious liberty statutes and religious/philosophical exemptions. Hamilton describes how the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and its state-law equivalents came to be in the United States, and she calls upon legislators at all levels to amend RFRA so that once we have developed an effective and safe vaccine, we might as a country develop herd immunity and prevent more unnecessary deaths.

Religious Entities Flex Their Muscles Through the Roberts Court, Playing Both Sides of the Discrimination Coin

Marci A. Hamilton, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the country’s leading church-state scholars, describe how legal entities wielded their religious identity as both a shield and a sword last term before the U.S. Supreme Court. Hamilton points out that religious entities won key cases that allow them to receive from government funding while enjoying exemptions from neutral generally applicable non-discrimination laws.

A Modest Proposal: A Heartbeat Bill for Those Who Don’t Wear Masks

University of Pennsylvania professor Marci A. Hamilton draws upon a strategy used by anti-abortion advocates in suggesting a way to encourage (or coerce) more people into wearing masks to avoid the spread of COVID-19. Hamilton proposes requiring persons who opt not to wear a mask in public (1) to watch, on a large screen, an adult's beating heart for 30 seconds, and (2) to be read a statement about how their decision unreasonably endangers others.

The Scope of Bostock v. Clayton County’s Contribution to LGBTQ Rights Is Not as Broad as You Might Think: Beware the “Super Statute” RFRA

University of Pennsylvania professor Marci A. Hamilton applauds the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, holding that gay and transgender employees are protected under Title VII, but she cautions that that Bostock’s contribution to LGBTQ rights is curtailed by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Hamilton calls for repeal, or at least significant reform, of RFRA to protect the civil rights of LGBTQ individuals restore the values of mutual dignity and respect enshrined in law.

The Response to President Trump’s Shameless Religious Photo Op Gives Me Hope for the Future

University of Pennsylvania professor Marci A. Hamilton praises the response of liberal clergy in response to President Trump’s seemingly opportunistic photo op in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. Hamilton calls upon these religious leaders to continue speaking out loudly in the name of inclusion, love, and truth.

Hey Twitter—How About Protecting the Rape Victims, Too? And Mr. President, You Lack the Power to Deter Social Media from Fact-checking

University of Pennsylvania professor Marci A. Hamilton comments on Twitter’s recent announcement of a policy to label tweets containing “misleading information.” Hamilton argues that this change is long overdue, but is only the tip of the “Twitter cruelty iceberg,” pointing out that Twitter has empowered celebrities accused of sex assault to attack victims (and whistleblowers), and Twitter should do something about that, as well.

The President Cannot Order the States to Open Houses of Worship During COVID-19

University of Pennsylvania professor Marci A. Hamilton argues that the President does not have the power to order states to open houses of worship during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hamilton discusses the limitations on federal power with respect to states and religious entities and praises the wise members of the clergy who are resisting opening before it is safe.

Mr. President: This Is When the Country Can “Reopen”

University of Pennsylvania professor Marci A. Hamilton writes an open letter to President Donald Trump asking that he not reopen the country until everyone has appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Hamilton argues that the President should exercise his power under the Defense Production Act to repurpose U.S. factories to make masks and gloves until everyone who needs them has them.

Toxic Religious Liberty in the COVID-19 Era

Marci A. Hamilton, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, argues that governors and lawmakers should not be granting religious exemptions to stay-at-home orders imposed due to COVID-19. Hamilton points out that there are two prerequisites for legitimate religious exemptions, and the exemptions granted in twelve states have met neither.

The Framers Would Have Been Appalled but Unsurprised by the President’s Failure to Get the COVID-19 Crisis Under Control: They Would Tell Him to Get Moving Now

Marci A. Hamilton, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, criticizes the Trump administration’s failure to adequately handle the national coordination of efforts to get the COVID-19 crisis under control. Hamilton points out that the Framers of the Constitution anticipated that the country would face emergencies and intentionally consolidated power in a single President to make decisions to unify and protect the nation.

The Lessons the Coronavirus Crisis Can Teach Us About the Religious Liberty that Serves the Public Good (aka the Framers’ Religious Liberty)

Marci A. Hamilton, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the country’s leading church-state scholars, describes some of the lessons the novel coronavirus pandemic can teach us about religious liberty. Hamilton points out that COVID-19 is nondenominational and nonpartisan, yet we are already seeing some groups claim to be exempt from the public-health prohibitions on large gatherings, on the basis of their religious beliefs.

A Tale of Two Victims Trying to Stay Above Water While Pursuing Justice: Corey Feldman and Patty Fortney (And Her Sisters)

Marci A. Hamilton, professor at the University of Pennsylvania and CEO of CHILD USA, describes two stories that show the persistent barriers to justice for child sex abuse victims, despite significant progress recently. First, Hamilton relates the story of Corey Feldman, who will finally get to tell his story of abuse in the premiere of My Truth: The Rape of Two Coreys on March 9, 2020, which will air at 11pm EST in a one-time, online showing globally. Second, Hamilton describes how Patty Fortney and her sisters are pursuing justice against the diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

The Framers Would Want You to Know: Alan Dershowitz Is Wrong About Impeachment, and So Is the President

Marci A. Hamilton, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, argues that abuse of power is a sufficient ground for presidential impeachment, notwithstanding the argument to the contrary by President Trump’s impeachment defense lawyer, Alan Dershowitz. Hamilton explains that abuse of power by the President was the very fear of the Framers of the Constitution, and to reject it as an impeachable offense would subvert the spirit of the Constitution, as evidenced by the Framers’ debates at the Constitutional Convention.

2019 Is the Year We Reached the Tipping Point for Sex Abuse and Assault Victims to Receive Justice: 2020 Will Be Even Better for SOL Reform

Marci A. Hamilton, professor at the University of Pennsylvania and CEO of CHILD USA, reviews the 2019 victories of victims of child sex abuse and assault and describes what needs to happen in 2020 to further secure justice for them.

2019 Is a Banner Year for SOL Reform, But There Is Much More to Do

Marci A. Hamilton, professor at the University of Pennsylvania and CEO of CHILD USA, explains why 2019 has been such an historic year for child sex abuse victims. Hamilton points out that children will not thrive in a society where individuals and institutions can ignore child sex abuse without consequence, so we must focus on protecting children and holding perpetrators and institutions accountable.

The Voters’ One True Power and Impeachment

Marci A. Hamilton, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, argues that the present allegations against President Trump require representatives and senators to act in the interest of the voters and seek the truth. Hamilton explains that the checks and balances our Constitution’s framers put in place were designed for this very type of situation, and the power to impeach serves a vital role of protecting the people.

Toxic Religious Liberty: President Trump Takes the Conservative Religious Agenda to the International Stage

Marci A. Hamilton, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the country’s leading church-state scholars, comments on President Trump's recent visit speech at the United Nations Event on Religious Freedom that promotes his administration's brand of religious liberty. Hamilton argues that Trump is leading the nation toward toxic religious liberty that our nations framers—and particularly James Madison—warned against and attempted to prevent.

Access to Justice for College Sex Abuse and Assault Victims

Marci A. Hamilton, professor at the University of Pennsylvania and CEO of CHILD USA, explains why statute of limitations (SOL) reform for sex abuse and assault victims is necessary not only for children, but also for college students. Hamilton describes the nationwide epidemic of sexual abuse on college and university campuses and argues that SOL reform is the best way to ensure these victims have access to justice.

Let’s Restore the Public Good to a Place of Honor and End Vaccination Exemptions Other Than Those Absolutely Necessary

Marci A. Hamilton, professor at the University of Pennsylvania and CEO of CHILD USA, calls for an end to legislative exemptions to mandatory childhood vaccinations, except those that are absolutely necessary. Hamilton explains why these exemptions undermine the public good and endanger children.

The Three-Front War on Child Sex Abuse: Law, Society, and the Public

Marci A. Hamilton, professor at the University of Pennsylvania and CEO of CHILD USA, describes the statute of limitations reform in New York that will give victims of child sex abuse a window of one year to file civil lawsuits against their abusers. Hamilton explains why this is an important—but not nearly sufficient—victory for child sex abuse victims and describes the three major changes we as a society need to implement to meaningfully address the scourge of child sex abuse.