SHAARE TEFILA CONGREGATION v. COBB, 481 U.S. 615 (1987) 107 S.Ct. 2019
SHAARE TEFILA CONGREGATION ET AL. v. COBB ET AL.
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT
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. Ã‚Â§ 1982. The
District Court dismissed petitioners' claims, and the Court of Appeals
affirmed, holding that discrimination against Jews is not racial
discrimination under Ã‚Â§ 1982.
1. A charge of racial discrimination within the meaning of Ã‚Â§ 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 Ã‚Â§ 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.
Deborah T. Garren argued the cause for respondents and
filed a brief for respondent Remer. With her on the brief
was Robert B. Barnhouse.[fn*]
[fn*] Page 615
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.
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. Ã‚Â§ 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
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 Ã‚Â§ 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 Ã‚Â§ 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 Ã‚Â§ 1982 claim.
We agree with the Court of Appeals that a charge of racial
discrimination within the meaning of Ã‚Â§ 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
We agree with petitioners, however, that the Court of Appeals
erred in holding that Jews cannot state a Ã‚Â§ 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 Ã‚Â§ 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 Ã‚Â§ 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 Ã‚Â§ 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.