Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

Professor Marci A. Hamilton is a Professor of Practice in Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania. She is also the founder and CEO 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

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
Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Strikes Again, But Wisconsin Insurance Commissioner Strikes Out

Cardozo Law professor Marci Hamilton comments on a recent statement by the Wisconsin Insurance Commissioner that purportedly applies the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. to that state’s law. Hamilton critiques the interpretation as misunderstanding the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and calls upon state courts not only to correctly understand the scope of the Hobby Lobby decision, but to reject the Hobby Lobby majority’s reasoning when interpreting their own state’s laws.

Hobby Lobby Yields More Rancor as Wheaton College Queues Up to Deny Contraceptive Coverage to Its Female Employees

Cardozo Law professor Marci Hamilton discusses Wheaton College’s request to receive accommodation under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to avoid providing some reproductive coverage for its female employees. Hamilton draws upon her own personal experience and points out that the recent controversies over RFRA in the U.S. Supreme Court have revealed that law’s true nature.

What’s Really Wrong With the Decisions in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood v. Burwell?

Marci Hamilton, a law professor at Cardozo School of Law, offers a strong critique of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, in which the Court held that owners of closely held corporations may deny its employees the health coverage of contraceptives on the basis of the owners’ own religious beliefs. Hamilton explains why the Court’s interpretation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) is problematic and calls for that legislation to be repealed as soon as possible.

What RFRA Has Wrought: Hobby Lobby, Onionhead, and the Perils of Religious Triumphalism

Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton comments on a recently filed religious discrimination lawsuit the EEOC brought on behalf of several employees against two companies, United Health Programs of America, Inc. and Cost Containment Group, Inc. In that case, the two defendant companies are allegedly imposing their “Onionhead” practices on their employees and discriminating against those employees who object to those practices. Hamilton argues that the case illustrates what is at stake in the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood cases currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, in which the Court is expected to resolve crucial questions about the scope of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and its relationship to civil rights acts.

George Will and the Price of Ignorance

Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton responds critically to a column by George Will recently published in the Washington Post in which Will belittled a Swarthmore rape victim and implied that college women are responsible for their rapes. Hamilton provides three examples of how society’s handling rape is improving and argues that Will and others should educate themselves about rape before writing columns that ignore facts.

Academic Freedom Is Not Immunity From Robust Debate in the Marketplace of Ideas

Cardozo Law School professor Marci Hamilton argues for the importance of academic freedom but distinguishes it from immunity from debate in the marketplace of ideas. She comments on a recent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request targeting University of Virginia School of Law professor Douglas Laycock for allegedly using university resources for anti-LGBT ends. Hamilton calls the formal FOIA request unnecessary but the intent to question how his public positions on various issues play out in the real world. Hamilton describes a number of positions Laycock has taken publicly that support the view that he is an advocate for extreme religious forces.

The Lessons of the New Mississippi RFRA that Shed Light on the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Cases Pending at the Supreme Court

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton argues that the effects of Mississippi’s recent passage of a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) should inform the U.S. Supreme Court as it presently considers two cases arising under the federal RFRA, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood. Hamilton points out that the new Mississippi law has ignited major conflict between businesses that simply want to do business with willing customers and those who want to impose their beliefs on employees and customers. Hamilton cautions that if the Supreme Court makes the federal RFRA’s language to applicable to organizations like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, it will surely cause national unrest.

Sex Abuse and Lawlessness in the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Community

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton describes two recent disappointing developments for survivors of sex abuse in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. The first is the plea deal for the man who threw bleach in the face of a venerated advocate of sex abuse survivors, and the second is a community’s celebration of the prison release of a man who attempted to bribe a victim to drop charges against her abuser.

The Overland Park, Kansas, Anti-Semitic Killer, the Kansas RFRA, the Federal RFRA, and RLUIPA

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton comments on the recent shooting incident by a white supremacist in Overland Park, Kansas. She describes the suspect’s religious beliefs and explains how the Kansas RFRA, federal RFRA, and RLUIPA can be used if not to protect a murderer acting due to his beliefs, then at least other wrongdoers similarly motivated.

Your Laws on RFRA

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton discusses the U.S. Supreme Court’s first and only decision on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), and how it represents the Court’s inadequacy to apply RFRA. Hamilton describes the background of that case, Gonzales v. O Centro Esprita Beneficente Unio do Vegetal (UDV), as well as the unintended effects of the decision. She concludes that the Court should seriously contemplate its institutional limitations, think twice before discounting the government’s purposes, and employ common sense when considering the RFRA and the contraception mandate cases.

The Insatiable Demand for Extreme Religious Liberty Under the RFRAs, Part II

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton continues her series of columns regarding Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs). Here, in her most recent column, Hamilton addresses the argument that RFRAs should be extended to suits between private parties. This issue has surfaced primarily in the states, Hamilton notes, where purportedly rampant fear by bakers and florists of having to deal with same-sex couples has led to proposals to give businesses a RFRA defense that could be invoked against potential customers. The most controversial such bill was eventually vetoed by Arizona’s Governor Brewer; that bill would have permitted private businesses to raise the state RFRA as a defense in lawsuits by customers whom they have turned away.

The Insatiable Demand for Extreme Religious Liberty Under the RFRAs, Part I: Why Hobby Lobby Falls Outside RFRA’s Protections

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton comments on federal RFRAs in the first column in a two-part series of columns that addresses the federal RFRA and the intersection of RFRAs and corporate law, as well as why corporations cannot take advantage of RFRAs. Part Two in the series, which will address state RFRAs, will appear here on Justia on March 20.

Sex Assaults at Evangelical Colleges, the United Nations, and the Vatican

Justia columnist and Cardozo law school professor Marci Hamilton comments on recent stories about the mishandling of reports of sex abuse and assaults at two fundamentalist colleges: Patrick Henry College and Bob Jones University. Hamilton also covers the Catholic Church’s ongoing issues with clergy sex abuse, and cautions these colleges not to follow the Church's lead. Hamilton notes that President Obama has been silent on the epidemic of sex abuse and assaults in religious entities in the United States. She argues that it is high time now, nearing the end of his last Term, for him to step up for all victims, and to stop pandering to religious entities.

The Federal Government Turns Its Focus to Sexual Assault on Campus

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton comments on the topic of college campus sexual assault, which is disturbingly frequent—so much so that the Obama Administration is now focusing on it. Hamilton considers ways to protect college women, especially women in college sports; notes how college men can help in rape prevention; and argues that worries about false accusations by women are overblown.

The Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument in Paroline v. Unknown Amy, a Case Regarding Restitution for Child Pornography Victims

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton covers and comments on Paroline v. Unknown Amy, a case on which the Supreme Court just held oral argument yesterday. The question in the case before the Court is how much child pornography market participants should be individually required to pay for the harm to the victims of child pornography.

2013: The Year in Review for Child Sex Abuse Victims’ Access to Justice

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton describes and comments on developments regarding justice for child-sex-abuse victims. Hamilton reports that, in 2013, the pace of the movement to procure justice for victims quickened remarkably. But there is also a negative development, Hamilton notes: religious groups have gone back to the drawing board to find new ways to protect themselves from the law in this area.

The Bishops Versus Women’s Health: The Gloves Are Off

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton contends that we are in the midst of a war over whether the U.S. Catholic Bishops and those who agree with them, or individual women, will control women’s bodies and health. Hamilton comments on the influence of Pope Francis. She also argues that there are two major battlefields in this war right now: one in the workplace, and the other in Catholic hospitals. Hamilton ends, too, with an account of the terrible labor of a woman who suffered unnecessarily due to these conflicts.

There Is Really Only One Issue in Town of Greece v. Galloway

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton comments on the recently argued Supreme Court case that asks whether it is constitutional for a small town to open its town council meetings with prayer. Hamilton’s conclusion is that the case ultimately turns on a single factual question: Can there be, in 21st Century America, such a thing as a “nonsectarian” prayer? The short answer, according to Hamilton, is “No way.”

The “Me Me Me Generation” of Believers

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton argues that a narcissistic worldview has infected debates over religious liberty in America, where, she notes, individuals are now demanding the right to construct their workplaces, communities, and schools in the image of their personal religious viewpoints. This is religious narcissism, Hamilton argues, and she compares it to the narcissistic viewpoint that critics of the Millennials say that many members of their generation often hold.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s Recent Veto of Child Abuse Legislation and What It Tells Us About the Civil Rights Movement for Children

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton takes strong issue with California Governor Jerry Brown’s decision to veto anti-child-abuse legislation. She argues that, in the civil rights movement for children, which she notes, is transforming children from property into persons in the United States, a critical element is giving child sex abuse victims meaningful access to justice, and she castigates Governor Brown for ignoring children's rights.