Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Bigotry Definition:

Racial or religious intolerance.

Related Terms: Racism, Xenophobia, Hate Crime, Human Right

Often an offshoot, synonym or product of racism. In the context of "enslavement of Africans" in the United States of America, Justice Rymer of the United States Court of Appeals, in Cato v US, quopted these words of the trial judge: "Discrimination and bigotry of any type is intolerable."

In a 1954 case before the Supreme Court of Oregon (US Bank of Portland v. Snodgrass), Justice Warner had before him a Will being contested on the grounds of bigotry, because the testator gifted his daughter Merle only if, verbatim from the Will, "she has not embraced, nor become a member of, the Catholic faith nor ever married to a man of such faith."

It was a case loaded with difficult issues but, in an excellent example of fiat justitia ruat caelum, deftly handled by Justice Warner with these words

"In terms of common parlance, bigotry and its concomitant "intolerance" are ordinarily odious and socially distasteful. They usually connote some intrusion upon or a variance with our traditional thoughts on religious liberty and religious tolerance; but we find nothing in the law declaring religious bigotry or intolerance to be mala in se. It is not until actions motivated by the intolerant extremes of bigotry contravene the positive law or invade the boundaries of established public policy that the law is quickened to repress such illegal excesses and in proper cases levy toll upon the offenders as reparation to those who have been damaged thereby. It is the quality of the act or expression of the bigot — not one's bigotry — which determines the necessity, if any, for legal interposition.

"The appellation bigot is therefore a word of social opprobrium, not one of legal condemnation....

"... there are many places where a bigot may safely express himself and manifest his intolerance of the viewpoint of others without fear of legal restraint or punishment. With certain limitations, one of those areas with a wide latitude of sufferance is found in the construction of the pattern of one's last will and testament. It is a field wherein neither this court nor any other court will question the correctness of a testator's religious views or prejudices...."


Categories & Topics:

Always looking up definitions? Save time with our search provider (modern browsers only)

If you find an error or omission in Duhaime's Law Dictionary, or if you have suggestion for a legal term, we'd love to hear from you!