Brief: Scholars of Religious Liberty Law filed an amicus brief in the Federal Prosecution of Catholic Anti-Nuclear Activists in Georgia

Franke, Katherine M.

Professor Katherine Franke submitted an amicus brief on behalf of scholars of religious liberty law in a case in which the federal government is prosecuting a group of Catholic peace activists, United States of America vs. Stephen Kelley et al. The brief provides guidance to the federal court on how to examine the claims of the activists, the Kings Bay Plowshares, that criminal prosecution by the U.S. Department of Justice substantially burdens their sincerely held religious belief that nuclear weapons are evil. The brief supports neither party in the case, but rather seeks to provide the court with the proper framework within which to consider the defendants’ motion to dismiss grounded in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Professors Micah J. Schwartzman, the Joseph W. Dorn Research Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law, and Nelson Tebbe, a Professor of Law at Cornell Law School, joined the brief.

“This case raises important questions regarding the use of RFRA as a defense in a criminal prosecution,” said Professor Katherine Franke, the principal author of the brief. “As legal scholars of religious liberty it is our concern that RFRA is interpreted consistently across contexts where sincerely held religious beliefs are substantially burdened by government action. We note in the brief that the Justice Department has taken a position in this case that is much less protective of religious liberty than it has in cases where the underlying issues are more aligned with the administration’s political agenda."


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May 6, 2019