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Shaare Tefila Congregation v. Cobb

U.S.
May 18, 1987
481 U.S. 615 (1987)

Summary

holding that Jews may bring a claim against non-Jewish whites under 42 U.S.C. § 1982, which forbids racially discriminatory interference with property rights

Summary of this case from Vill. of Freeport & Andrew Hardwick v. Barrella

Opinion

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT

No. 85-2156.

Argued February 25, 1987 Decided May 18, 1987

After their synagogue was painted with anti-Semitic slogans, phrases, and symbols, petitioners brought suit in Federal District Court, alleging that the desecration by respondents violated 42 U.S.C. § 1982. The District Court dismissed petitioners' claims, and the Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that discrimination against Jews is not racial discrimination under § 1982.

Held:

1. A charge of racial discrimination within the meaning of § 1982 cannot not be made out by alleging only that the defendants were motivated by racial animus. It is also necessary to allege that that animus was directed toward the kind of group that Congress intended to protect when it passed the statute. P. 617.

2. Jews can state a § 1982 claim of racial discrimination since they were among the peoples considered to be distinct races and hence within the protection of the statute at the time it was passed. They are not foreclosed from stating a cause of action simply because the defendants are also part of what today is considered the Caucasian race. Saint Francis College v. Al-Khazraji, ante, p. 604. Pp. 617-618.

785 F.2d 523, reversed and remanded.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Patricia A. Brannan argued the cause for petitioners. With her on the briefs were David S. Tatel, Joseph M. Hassett, Steven P. Hollman, Irvin N. Shapell, and Kevin J. Lipson.

Deborah T. Garren argued the cause for respondents and filed a brief for respondent Remer. With her on the brief was Robert B. Barnhouse.

Briefs of amici curiae urging reversal were filed for the State of Maryland by Stephen H. Sachs, Attorney General, Dennis M. Sweeney, Deputy Attorney General, and Ralph S. Tyler III and C. J. Messerschmidt, Assistant Attorneys General; for the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith et al. by Gregg H. Levy, Mitchell F. Dolin, Meyer Eisenberg, David Brody, Edward N. Leavy, Steven M. Freeman, Jill L. Kahn, Robert S. Rifkind, Samuel Rabinove, Richard T. Foltin, Eileen Kaufman, Harold R. Tyler, James Robertson, Norman Redlich, William L. Robinson, Judith A. Winston, Joseph A. Morris, and Grover G. Hankins; and for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee by James G. Abourezk.


On November 2, 1982, the outside walls of the synagogue of the Shaare Tefila Congregation in Silver Spring, Maryland, were sprayed with red and black paint and with large anti-Semitic slogans, phrases, and symbols. A few months later, the Congregation and some individual members brought this suit in the Federal District Court, alleging that defendants' desecration of the synagogue had violated 42 U.S.C. § 1981, 1982, 1985(3) and the Maryland common law of trespass, nuisance, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. On defendants' motion under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and (6), the District Court dismissed all the claims. The Court of Appeals affirmed in all respects. 785 F.2d 523 (CA4 1986). Petitioners petitioned for writ of certiorari. We granted the petition, 479 U.S. 812 (1986), and we now reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

Section 1982 guarantees all citizens of the United States, "the same right . . . as is enjoyed by white citizens . . . to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property." The section forbids both official and private racially discriminatory interference with property rights, Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co., 392 U.S. 409 (1968). Petitioners' allegation was that they were deprived of the right to hold property in violation of § 1982 because the defendants were motivated by racial prejudice. They unsuccessfully argued in the District Court and Court of Appeals that Jews are not a racially distinct group, but that defendants' conduct is actionable because they viewed Jews as racially distinct and were motivated by racial prejudice. The Court of Appeals held that § 1982 was not "intended to apply to situations in which a plaintiff is not a member of a racially distinct group but is merely perceived to be so by defendants." 785 F.2d, at 526 (emphasis in original). The Court of Appeals believed that "[b]ecause discrimination against Jews is not racial discrimination," id., at 527, the District Court was correct in dismissing the § 1982 claim.

We agree with the Court of Appeals that a charge of racial discrimination within the meaning of § 1982 cannot be made out by alleging only that the defendants were motivated by racial animus; it is necessary as well to allege that defendants' animus was directed towards the kind of group that Congress intended to protect when it passed the statute. To hold otherwise would unacceptably extend the reach of the statute.

We agree with petitioners, however, that the Court of Appeals erred in holding that Jews cannot state a § 1982 claim against other white defendants. That view rested on the notion that because Jews today are not thought to be members of a separate race, they cannot make out a claim of racial discrimination within the meaning of § 1982. That construction of the section we have today rejected in Saint Francis College v. Al-Khazraji, ante, p. 604. Our opinion in that case observed that definitions of race when § 1982 was passed were not the same as they are today, ante, at 609-613, and concluded that the section was "intended to protect from discrimination identifiable classes of persons who are subjected to intentional discrimination solely because of their ancestry or ethnic characteristics." Ante, at 613. As Saint Francis makes clear, the question before us is not whether Jews are considered to be a separate race by today's standards, but whether, at the time § 1982 was adopted, Jews constituted a group of people that Congress intended to protect. It is evident from the legislative history of the section reviewed in Saint Francis College, a review that we need not repeat here, that Jews and Arabs were among the peoples then considered to be distinct races and hence within the protection of the statute. Jews are not foreclosed from stating a cause of action against other members of what today is considered to be part of the Caucasian race.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals is therefore reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

It is so ordered.


Summaries of

Shaare Tefila Congregation v. Cobb

U.S.
May 18, 1987
481 U.S. 615 (1987)

holding that Jews may bring a claim against non-Jewish whites under 42 U.S.C. § 1982, which forbids racially discriminatory interference with property rights

Summary of this case from Vill. of Freeport & Andrew Hardwick v. Barrella

holding that Jews can sue for race discrimination under § 1982

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holding that Jews are not foreclosed from stating a claim under Section 1982 based upon the Court's reasoning in Saint Francis College.

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holding that Jews are "considered to be distinct race and hence within the protection of the statute," and thus "Jews are not foreclosed from stating a cause of action against other members of what today is considered to be part of the Caucasian race"

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holding that Jews are "considered to be distinct race[] and hence within the protection of the statute," and thus "Jews are not foreclosed from stating a cause of action against other members of what today is considered to be part of the Caucasian race"

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holding that Jews were a separate race under § 1982 and, in dicta, stating the same for contemporaneous legislation

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holding that "Jews and Arabs were among the peoples then considered to be distinct races and hence within the protection of."

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holding members of Jewish faith constitute cognizable racial group for purposes of federal civil rights law

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holding that Jews are a protected group under 42 U.S.C. § 1982

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finding that Jews were a protected group that could state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1982

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concluding that discrimination against Jews and Arabs was covered by § 1982 — the same statute the Court found in Jones to be a valid exercise of Congress' Thirteenth Amendment power without explicitly addressing the Thirteenth Amendment issue

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reversing court of appeals dismissal of plaintiffs' claim based upon plaintiffs' status as Jewish people

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recognizing racial discrimination claim by Jewish persons under 42 U.S.C. § 1982, because they were among the peoples considered to be distinct races and hence within the protection of the statute at the time it was passed

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recognizing Jewish ethnicity as basis for § 1982 suit

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recognizing individuals of Jewish ancestry as a distinct race under § 1981

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applying to § 1982 the discussion and holding of Saint Francis College v. Al–Khazraji, 481 U.S. 604, 609–613, 107 S.Ct. 2022, 95 L.Ed.2d 582, a case interpreting § 1981

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In Shaare Tefila Congregation v. Cobb, 481 U. S. 615 (1987), we decided the narrow question whether Jews are a separate and protected race under § 1982.

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In Shaare Tefila Congregation v. Cobb, 481 U.S. 615 (1987), we reversed the dismissal of a claim by a Jewish congregation alleging that individuals were liable under § 1982 for spraying racist graffiti on the walls of the congregation's synagogue.

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noting that, in the Title VII context, national origin, ethnicity, and ancestry often "overlap as a legal matter"

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explaining that although “Jews today are not thought to be members of a separate race,” they are nonetheless protected under 42 U.S.C. § 1982 because at the time of the statute's adoption they “were among the peoples then considered to be distinct races”

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discussing § 1982

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explaining “that the Court of Appeals erred in holding that Jews cannot state a § 1982 claim against other white defendants”

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explaining “that the Court of Appeals erred in holding that Jews cannot state a § 1982 claim against other white defendants”

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construing § 1982

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applying 42 U.S.C. § 1982

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Case details for

Shaare Tefila Congregation v. Cobb

Case Details

Full title:SHAARE TEFILA CONGREGATION ET AL. v . COBB ET AL

Court:U.S.

Date published: May 18, 1987

Citations

481 U.S. 615 (1987)
107 S. Ct. 2019

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