FacultyFaculty/Author Profile

Professor Marci A. Hamilton

University of Pennsylvania
Senior Fellow, The Program for Research on Religion
Philadelphia, PA, USA

MARCI A. HAMILTON is one of the United States’ leading church/state scholars and is a Senior Fellow in the Program for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society at the University of Pennsylvania.  She is also the Academic Director and Chairman of the Board of CHILD USA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to preventing and deterring child abuse and neglect.  She holds the Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law, Emeritus, at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University.

She was also the Academic Curator for the National Constitution Center’s 2015 Religious Liberty Exhibit and a contributor on the Establishment Clause to the National Constitution Center’s Interactive Constitution project.

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.  She successfully challenged the constitutionality of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) at the Supreme Court in Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507 (1997), and is considered the foremost national scholar and advocate for the victims of extreme religious liberty, including the RFRAs and RLUIPA.   She also hosts www.RFRAperils.com, which tracks and analyzes free exercise statutes in all 50 states and the federal government.

Hamilton is the author of God vs. the Gavel: The Perils of Extreme Religious Liberty (Cambridge University Press 2014), which was nominated for a 2015 Pulitzer Prize; Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children (Cambridge University Press 2008); God vs. the Gavel: Religion and the Rule of Law (Cambridge University Press 2005), which received Foreword Magazine’s Political Science Book of the Year, Silver Medal; and the co-editor of Fundamentalism, Politics and the Law (Palgrave Macmillan with Mark Rozell 2011); and numerous scholarly articles. She is also a bi-monthly columnist for www.justia.com/verdict.  Her blog with Professor Leslie Griffin on religious liberty, women’s rights, and children’s rights can be found at http://www.hamilton-Griffin.com.   Her textbook, Children and the Law, co-authored with Martin Gardner, will be published 2016-17 by Carolina Academic Press, formerly Lexis/Nexis.

As a result of her research on clergy sex abuse, Hamilton is a tireless advocate for access to justice for child sex abuse victims and a national leader in the movement to eliminate statutes of limitations in child sex abuse cases.  She has represented numerous survivors across the United States and submitted testimony and advised legislators in every state where significant reform has occurred and hosts www.sol-reform.com, which tracks and provides analysis about the SOL movement in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and around the globe.  She has filed countless pro bono amicus briefs for the protection of children at the United States Supreme Court and in other courts.

Hamilton has been honored with 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 RFRA, RLUIPA, First Amendment, clergy sex abuse, and statute of limitations issues.

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.


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