Shaare Tefila Congregation v. Cobb

Decision Date18 May 1987
Docket NumberNo. 85-2156,85-2156
Citation481 U.S. 615,95 L.Ed.2d 594,107 S.Ct. 2019
PartiesSHAARE TEFILA CONGREGATION, et al., Petitioners v. John William COBB et al
CourtU.S. Supreme Court
Syllabus

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 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. St. Francis College v. Al-Khazraji, 481 U.S. 604, 107 S.Ct. 2022, 95 L.Ed.2d 582 (1987). Pp. 617-618.

785 F.2d 523 (CA 4 1986), reversed and remanded.

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

Patricia A. Brannan, Washington, D.C., for petitioners.

Deborah T. Garren, Baltimore, Md., for respondents.

Justice WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

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, 107 S.Ct. 62, 93 L.Ed.2d 21 (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, 88 S.Ct. 2186, 20 L.Ed.2d 1189 (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...

To continue reading

Request your trial
167 cases
  • Constitutionality of The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act
    • United States
    • Opinions of the Office of Legal Counsel of the Department of Justice
    • June 16, 2009
    ...United States . 203 U.S. 1, 34-35 (1906) (Harlan, J., dissenting). [4] In light of the Court's construction of §§ 1981 and 1982 in Shaare Tefila Congregation and St. College, it would be consistent for the Court so to construe this legislation, especially with sufficient guidance from Congr......
  • Card v. US
    • United States
    • D.C. Court of Appeals
    • June 28, 2001
    ...F.2d 1076, 1086 n. 9 (5th Cir.1991) ("Whether Jewish jurors are viewed as members of a `race,' see Shaare Tefila Congregation v. Cobb, 481 U.S. 615, 617, 107 S.Ct. 2019, 95 L.Ed.2d 594 (1987), or a religion, a defendant's exercise of peremptory challenges against them is subject to Batson's......
  • United States v. Diggins
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • June 8, 2022
    ...origins" similarly served to eliminate the "badges, incidents, and relics of slavery." Id.; see Shaare Tefila Congregation v. Cobb, 481 U.S. 615, 617, 107 S.Ct. 2019, 95 L.Ed.2d 594 (1987) (noting that 19th-century "definitions of race ... were not the same as they are today," frequently en......
  • Harris v. McDonald's Corp.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Middle District of Florida
    • April 3, 1995
    ...who are black, the same as white citizens, Plaintiffs state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Shaare Tefila v. Cobb, 481 U.S. 615, 617-18, 107 S.Ct. 2019, 2021-22, 95 L.Ed.2d 594 (1987); Donaire v. NME Hosp. Inc., 27 F.3d 507, 508 (11th Cir.1994); Taylor v. Flint Osteopathic Hosp., 561 F.Supp......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
6 books & journal articles
  • Table of Cases
    • United States
    • The Path of Constitutional Law Suplemmentary Materials
    • January 1, 2007
    ...U.S. 497, 121 S.Ct. 1021, 149 L.Ed.2d 32 (2001), 906 Serrano v. Priest, 557 P.2d 929 (Cal. 1977), 1213 Shaare Tefila Congregation v. Cobb, 481 U.S. 615, 107 S.Ct. 2019, 95 L.Ed.2d 594 (1987), 1068, 1330 Shafer v. Farmers' Grain Co., 268 U.S. 189, 45 S.Ct. 481, 69 L.Ed. 909 (1925), 866 Shafe......
  • Discriminatory housing statements and s. 3604(c): a new look at the Fair Housing Act's most intriguing provision.
    • United States
    • Fordham Urban Law Journal Vol. 29 No. 1, October 2001
    • October 1, 2001
    ...racial discrimination to include many forms of national origin and religious discrimination. Shaare Tefila Congregation v. Cobb, 481 U.S. 615 (1987) (holding that "Jews" are a race protected by the 1866 Act); Saint Francis Coll. v. Al-Khazraji, 481 U.S. 604 (1987) (holding that "Arabs" are ......
  • The scope of Congress's Thirteenth Amendment enforcement power after City of Boerne v. Flores.
    • United States
    • Washington University Law Review Vol. 88 No. 1, December 2010
    • December 1, 2010
    ...races in the mid-1800s and, thus, discrimination against these groups was racial discrimination. See Shaare Tefila Congregation v. Cobb, 481 U.S. 615 (1987) (permitting claim of racial discrimination under [section] 1982 by Caucasian Jews); Saint Francis Coll. v. Al-Khazraji, 481 U.S. 604 (......
  • Nebraska's Corporate-farming Law and Discriminatory Effects Under the Dormant Commerce Clause
    • United States
    • University of Nebraska - Lincoln Nebraska Law Review No. 88, 2021
    • Invalid date
    ...between "sex," "gender," and "sexual orientation" and collecting sources), and race, see Shaare Tefila Congregation v. Cobb, 481 U.S. 615, 617 (1987); Saint Francis College v. Al-Khazraji, 481 U.S. 604, 613 (1987) (equating race-based discrimination with "ancestry or ethnic 117. See Best & ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT