Category Archives: Masterpiece Cakeshop

Press Advisory: Columbia Law Scholars Issue Memorandum on Civil Rights and Antidiscrimination Laws

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

PRESS ADVISORY
Columbia Law Scholars Issue Memorandum on Civil Rights and Antidiscrimination Laws: “Religion, Discrimination, and Government Funding: Enforcing Civil Rights Law After Masterpiece Cakeshop and Trinity Lutheran. 

Media Contact:
Elizabeth Reiner Platt, Director, Public Rights/Private Conscience Project
212.854.8079 | ep2801@columbia.edu

NEW YORK: 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