Poster Paper: Extending Environmental Justice Research to Religious Groups

Saturday, November 9, 2019
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Plaza Exhibits (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Heather Campbell, Claremont Graduate University and Sumaia Al-kohlani, UAE University

For more than 30 years, significant research has found that in the US racial and ethnic minorities suffer disproportionately from nearness to environmental disamenities compared to white non-Hispanics, and that these results persist even controlling for poverty (e.g., Ringquist 2005) and “which came first,” the minorities or the disamenities (e.g., Pastor, Sadd and Hipp 2001; Campbell, Peck and Tschudi 2010). The engrained discriminatory findings of this environmental justice (EJ) research have led some to argue that we observe “systemic racism,” built into our society and its systems in ways that may be difficult to perceive (Pulido 2000; Campbell, Kim and Eckerd 2015).

Yet, within the history of the United States, racial and ethnic minorities are not the only groups that have been systematically discriminated against. For example, various religious groups also have a history of discrimination. It seems natural, then, to consider whether, holding constant race and ethnicity, some religious groups may also suffer from “EJ syndrome.”

In this research we extend the EJ research by considering Jews, who have a long history of discrimination, including in the US; Muslims, who have been discriminated against in the US at least since 9/11; Catholics, who have been discriminated against such that there has only ever been one US president who was Catholic and the election of the first Catholic president was not until 1960; and Mormons/Latter-Day Saints (LDS), who have been discriminated against including by the US Federal government. However, one problem with extending EJ analysis to religious groups is that the US Census does not collect data on religion (US Census,, nd). To measure the presence of religious groups we use the presence of Jewish, Muslim, LDS and Catholic houses of worship within Census tracts. We use the CalEnviroScreen 3.0 index as our measure of environmental disamenity. CalEnviroScreen is produced by the state of California for use in EJ research, and is an index combining several types of environmental stressors, including several pollutants as well as factors that make communities more susceptible to pollutants. Our preliminary results suggest that, even controlling for race/ethnicity and income, the presence of a Jewish, Catholic, LDS, or Muslim house of worship in a Census tract increases the likelihood of a cluster of environmental disamenities as measured by the CalEnviroScreen.

This early work very importantly extends our understanding of the interactions between a variety of diversity factors and environmental injustice. In order to create policies that reduce discriminatory disparities in our society, we must first understand their parameters, and this research helps us to do that in a new domain.