The Warren Court organized the concept of strict scrutiny in Shelton v. Tucker. Where the defendant was obligated to treat people without regard to membership in a suspect class and failed to do that, the Court would hold them liable for their behavior unless it was done for a compelling public reason and there was no less damaging alternative.
The concept of strict scrutiny had nothing to do with intentions. The issue for the Warren Court was whether one party had injured another because of a forbidden reason. That concept of causation was understood broadly. The Court was not looking into people’s minds, rather it looked at their behavior. If the behavior was tied to race, religion or other “suspect” categories it was not permissible. The Court drove this point home in Palmer v. Thompson, holding that the closing of a swimming pool applied to everyone, not just blacks, and that the Court was uninterested in the actors’ motivations.
Gottlieb, Stephen E.
"Rolling John Bingham in His Grave: The Rehnquist Court makes Sport With the 14th Amendment,"
Akron Law Review: Vol. 36
, Article 1.
Available at: https://ideaexchange.uakron.edu/akronlawreview/vol36/iss3/1