Columbia Law Scholars Issue Memorandum on Civil Rights and Anti-discrimination Laws Religion, Discrimination, and Government Funding: Enforcing Civil Rights Law After Masterpiece Cakeshop and Trinity Lutheran.
November 28, 2018: The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project (PRPCP) at Columbia Law School has published a memorandum that clarifies the responsibility of state and local human rights agencies and commissions to robustly enforce civil rights laws—particularly in the context of government-funded social services—in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decisions in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission and Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer.
PRPCP’s memorandum, “Religion, Discrimination, and Government Funding: Enforcing Civil Rights Law After Masterpiece Cakeshop and Trinity Lutheran,” is designed to provide guidance to state and local governments on the proper balance between civil rights enforcement and constitutional free exercise rights. It also offers legislative and administrative steps that states and localities may take to ensure that the civil rights of their citizenry are robustly protected.
The rulings in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Trinity Lutheran, and other recent high-profile cases have confused rather than clarified the contexts in which religious objectors can be exempt from compliance with antidiscrimination laws. The Court’s decisions have sent mixed signals to state and local human rights agencies about how to vigorously enforce antidiscrimination laws while also protecting religious liberty. Unfortunately, many misconceptions remain about the responsibility of private actors—including government-funded social service providers—to abide by civil rights laws to which they have religious objections.
Furthermore, the federal government has taken steps to grant broad religious exemptions to federal contractors while diminishing the religious rights of federal grant beneficiaries. In response to this confusion, PRPCP’s memorandum, “Religion, Discrimination, and Government Funding: Enforcing Civil Rights Law After Masterpiece Cakeshop and Trinity Lutheran,” clarifies the responsibility of state actors to uphold and enforce civil rights laws, including within taxpayer-funded social service programs.
Access a .pdf of the Memorandum:https://www.law.columbia.edu/sites/default/files/microsites/gender-sexuality/PRPCP/civil_rights_guidance_11.26.18.pdf
Access a .pdf of this Press Advisory: https://www.law.columbia.edu/sites/default/files/microsites/gender-sexuality/PRPCP/Presser_CivilRightsGuidance.pdf
Public Rights/Private Conscience Project is a research initiative of the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School. The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project’s mission is to bring legal academic expertise to bear on the myriad contexts in which religious liberty rights conflict with or undermine other fundamental rights. We undertake approaches to the developing law of religion that both respects the importance of religious liberty and recognizes the ways in which too broad an accommodation of these rights threatens Establishment Clause violations and can unsettle a proper balance with other fundamental rights. Our work takes the form of legal research and scholarship, public policy interventions, advocacy support, and academic and media publications.
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