Explainer: The Hobby Lobby Amicus Briefs
Religion & Liberty Online

Explainer: The Hobby Lobby Amicus Briefs

Hobby-Lobby-StoreLast week, over 80 amicus briefs were filed with the Supreme Court on both sides of Hobby Lobby’s challenge to the HHS contraceptive-abortifacient mandate. Here’s what you need to know about amicus briefs and their role in this case.

What is an amicus brief?

An amicus brief is a learned treatise submitted by an amicus curiae (Latin for “friend of the court”), someone who is not a party to a case who offers information that bears on the case but that has not been solicited by any of the parties to assist a court. The amicus brief is a way to introduce concerns ensuring that the possibly broad legal effects of a court decision will not depend solely on the parties directly involved in the case.

Who can submit an amicus brief?

While any interested party can contribute or sign an amicus brief, it can only be filed only by an attorney admitted to practice before the Supreme Court. After filing, the Court decides whether it will accept the brief. Supreme Court Rule 37 provides that an amicus curiae brief which brings relevant matter to the Court’s attention that has not already been brought to its attention by the parties is of considerable help to the Court. An amicus brief which does not serve this purpose burdens the staff and facilities of the Court and its filing is not favored.

Do amicus briefs have any influence on Supreme Court rulings?

While it’s impossible to know how any particular amicus brief influences a justice or their decisions, one helpful proxy is the number of citations to such documents they include in their rulings. For example, Justice Sonia Sotomayor cited amicus briefs in 11 of her opinions this last term, or 69 percent. At the bottom were Justices Antonin Scalia, who has traditionally been a bit dubious of amicus briefs, and Samuel A. Alito Jr. — both with three opinions containing such citations.

Who submitted briefs in support of Hobby Lobby?

In the case of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius, over 50 briefs were filed in support. The amicus curiae includes 107 members of Congress, 20 states, leading scholars, doctors and women’s organizations, prominent Protestant and Catholic theologians, and a diverse religious groups.

Below is the current list of people and organizations who signed these briefs:

Bipartisan Group of 88 Senators and Reps:

Senators Blunt (R-MO), Alexander (R-TN), Ayotte (R-NH), Barrasso (R-WY), Burr (R-NC), Coburn (R-OK), Enzi (R-WY), Fischer (R-NE), Graham (R-SC), Hoeven (R-ND), Johanns (R-NE), Moran (R-KS), Rubio (R-FL), Scott (R-SC), Toomey (R-PA), and Wicker (R-MI), Congressmen and Congresswomen Lipinski (D-IL), McIntyre (D-NC), Cantor (R-VA), Forbes (R-VA), Aderhold (R-AL), Kelly (R-PA), Bachmann (R-MN), King (R-IA), Benishek (R-MI), Kline (R-MN), Bentivolio (R-MI), Labrador (R-ID), Black (R-TN), LaMalfa (R-CA), Blackburn (R-TN), Lamborn (R-CO), Boustany (R-LA), Lankford (R-OK), Brady (R-TX), Latta (R-PA), Bridenstine (R-OK), Long (R-MO), Broun (R-GA), Lummis (R-WY), Cole (R-OK), Massie (R-KY), Conaway (R-TX), Miller (R-FL), Daines (R-MT), Mullin (R-OK), DeSantis (R-FL), Murphy (R-PA), DesJarlais (R-TN), Neugebauer (R-TX), Duncan (R-SC), Nunnelee (R-MS), Fincher (R-TN), Olson (R-TX), Fleming (R-LA), Palazzo (R-MS), Fortenberry (R-NE), PIttenger (R-NC), Foxx (R-NC), Pitts (R-PA), Franks (R-Az), Poe (R-TX), Garrett (R-NJ), Pompeo (R-KS), Gowdy (R-SC), Roskam (R-IL), Griffin (R-AR), Rothfus (R-PA), Harper (R-MS), Scalise (R-LA), Harris (R-MD), Scott (R-GA), Hartzler (R-MO), Smith (R-NE), Hudson (R-NC), Stockman (R-TX), Huelskamp (R-KS), Wagner (R-MO), Huizenga (R-MI), Walberg (R-MI), HUltgren (R-IL), Webster (R-FL), Johnson (R-OH), Westmoreland (R-GA), Jones (R-NC), Wilson (R-SC), Jordan (R-OH), Wittman (R-VA)

20 States

Michigan, Ohio, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin

15 Senators and Reps – Original RFRA Signers

Hatch, Coats, Cochran, Crapo, Grassley, Inhofe, McCain, McConnell, Portman, Roberts, Shelby, Goodlatte, Smith (NJ), Smith (TX), Wolf

4 U.S. Senators

Ted Cruz, John Cornyn, Mike Lee, and David Vitter

Women’s Public Policy Groups and others

Susan B. Anthony List, Charlotte Lozier Institute, Concerned Women for America, and a Coalition of State Legislative and Executive Branch Officials
*Agudath Israel, Orthodox Union & Others: Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs, Agudas Harabbanim, Agudath Israel of America, National Council of Young Israel, Rabbinical Alliance of America, Rabbinical Council of America, Torah Umesorah, The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America

Christian Churches & Ministries

Christian Legal Society, American Bible Society, Anglican Church in North America, Association of Christian Schools International, Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Prison Fellowship Ministries, World Vision

Constitutional Law Scholars

Justice Thomas O. Marshall Chair of Constitutional Law Randy Beck, Professor of Law Ashutosh Bhagwat, Professor of Law Gerard V. Bradley, Luis D. Brandeis Professor of Law and Director of The Herbert and Elinor Nootbaar Institute on Law, Religion, and Ethics Robert F. Cochrane, Jr., Associate Professor of Law and Associate Director of the Center for Law & Religion Marc O. DeGirolami, Professor of Law and Director of the Interdisciplinary Program on Law and Religion Robert A. Destro, Professor of Law and Director of the Program in Church, State, and Society Richard Garnett, McCormick Chair in Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program Robert P. George, Learned Hand Professor of Law Mary Ann Glendon, Professor of Law Scott Idleman, Associate Professor of Law and Political Science John D. Inazu, Assistant Professor of Law Antony Kolenc, Vice Dean & Professor of Law Michael P. Moreland, Warren Distinguished Professor of Law and Co-Executive Director of the Institute for Law & Religion Steven D. Smith, William P. and Hazel B. White Director at Center for Ethics and Culture and Professor of Law O. Carter Snead, Deab and Professor of Law Robert Vischer, Gary T. Schwartz Professor of Law Eugene Volokh

67 Catholic Theologians

Ann Astell, Rev. Nicanor Pier Giorgio Austriaco, Dr. Melanie Barrett, Gregory R. Beaubout, Frank Beckwith, J. Brian Benestad, John Berkman, Rev. Tom Berg, Christopher Plum, Patrick Boyle, Gerard Bradley, Joseph Capizzi, John Cavadini, Rev. Brian Chrzastek, Patrick Clark, Fr. Basil Cole, Randall Colton, Holly Taylor Coolman, Rev. John Corbett, Patrick Deneen, Patrick Derr, Dana Dillon, Jason Eberl, Robert Fastiggi, Gloria Falcao Dodd, Michael Duricy, John Finley, MIchael Foley, Alfred Freddoso, Rev. W. Thomas Frerking, Michael Gorman, John Grabowski, Marc Guerra, Ann Hartle, Lawrence Hennessey, Josh Hochschild, Dr. Leroy Huizenga, Dr. Christopher Kaczor, James Keating, Karl Keating, Mary Keys, Angela Knobel, Rev. Dominic Langevin, Patrick Lee, Fr. Dominic Legge, Matthew Levering, V. Bradley Lewis, Charles LiMandri, Dr. Steve A. Long, Fr. Brendan Lupton, Bruce Marshall, William Mattison III, Monsignor Kevin McMahon, Fr. David Meconi, Melissa Moschella, Mark Murphy, Michael Pakaluk, C.C. Pecknold, Thomas Petri, Daniel Philpott, Patricia Powers, Alexander Pruss, Lawrence Welch, Shawn McCauley Welch, Fr. Thomas Joseph White, Christopher Wolfe, Rev. Martin Zielinski

38 Protestant Theologians

Rick Warren, Eric Metaxas, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Coalition of African American Pastors, Manhattan Declaration, InStep International, Wayne Grudem, Scott Rae, Ravi Zacharias, Daniel Akin, Bruce Asherford, E. Calvin Beisner, John A. Bloom, Linwood Bragan, Chad Brand, Donald Arthur Carson, David Dykes, Matthew Flannagan, Norman Geisler, Rev. Trevon Gross, Wayne Grudem, Danny Han, Daniel Heimbach, Joseph Holden, Hershell Wayne House, Bishop Harry Jackson, Clay Jones, David W. Jones, Kenneth Keathley, Kevin Lewis, Rev. Art LIndsley, Scott Matscherz, Alex McFarland, Terry MOrtenson, Andrew Naselli, J. Randall Price, Scott Rae, Rich Schenker, Rev. Gregory Smith, John Stonestreet, Derek W.H. Thomas, Frank Turek, Eric Teetsel, Hugh Whelchel

Religious Publishers

Michael McConnell, Christian Booksellers Association, Deseret Book Company, Feldheim Publishers, Tyndale House Publishers

9 International Law Institutions and 27 Law and Religion Scholars representing the countries

Argentina, Belgium, Chile, Colombia, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, United Kingdom, United States, and Uruguay: International Center for Law and Religion Studies, Asociación para la Promoción y el Estudio de la Libertad Religiosa, Centro de Libertad Religiosa, Consorcio Latinoamericano de Libertad REligiosa, European Centre for Law and Justice, Instituto de Derecho Religioso del Estado, Oxford Society for Law and Religion, Law and Religion Chair, Real Academia de Jurisprudencia y Legislación de España, Prof. Rex Ahdar, Prof. Carmen Asiaín Periera, Prof. Paolo Carozza, Ana María Celis Brunet, Prof. Louis-Leon Christians, Prof. Pieter Coertzen, Prof. Alberto Gambino, President Hamza Yusuf Hanson, Prof. Mark Hill QC, Prof. Natan Lerner, Prof. Joaquin Mantecón, Prof. Asher Maoz, Prof. Javier Martiníz-Torrón, Prof. Stefano Delle Monache, Prof. Michaela Moravciková, Prof. Juan Navarro Floria, Prof. Andrea Nicolussi, Prof. Rafael Palomino, Dr. Alberto Patiño Reyes, Dr. Peter Petkoff, Prof. Vicente Prieto Martinez, Dr. Gregor Puppinck, Prof. Gerhard Robbers, Prof. Giulio Salerno, Juan Carlos Valderrama Adriansén, Prof. Lorenza Violini

Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye: Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Int’l Soc’y for Krishna Consciousness, Crescent Foods, Queens Federation of Churches, Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, East Texas Baptist University, Colorado Christian University, Ave Maria University, Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, Kuyper College, Dr. Andrew Abel, Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, Inc., Individual Physicians and Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom, Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, Inc., Breast Cancer Prevention Institute and 286 Legatus Members, Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, Polycarp Research Institute, Coalition on Abortion Breast Cancer, 286 Members of Legatus and Catholic Vote, Christian Medical Association, American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians & Gynecologists,  Christian Medical Association, The National Catholic Bioethics Center, Physicians for Life, National Association of Pro Life Nurses, National Association of Catholic Nurses, Drury, Development Corporation Drury Southwest, Inc., Drury Hotels Company, Inc., National Lawyers’ Association, Massachusetts Citizens for Life, Massachusetts Family Institute, Pro-Life Legal Defense Fund,  Liberty, Life, and Law Foundation, Thomas More Society, and Christian Family Coalition, Professor Emeritus of Law Charles E. Rice, Professor of Law Bradley P. Jacob, Prof of Law David M. Wagner, Common Good Foundation, Common Good Alliance, Catholic Online, LLC, The Texas Center for Defense of Life, and the National Legal Foundation, Steven Willis: Freedom X, Kristin Balding Gutting and Daniel D. Barnhizer

Filed in support of neither party, but supports free exercise rights for family businesses like Hobby Lobby

Azusa Pacific University, Alliance Development Fund, Bethany International, Biblica US, Inc., Billy Graham Evangelical Association, Compassion International, Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, Fellowship of Catholic University Students, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Marilyn Hickey Ministries, New Tribes Mission, Once Child Matters, Pine Cove, Point Loma Nazerene University, Reach Beyond, Samaritan’s Purse, Simpson University, Sky Ranch, Summit Ministries, The Christian & Missionary Alliance, The Navigators, Waterstone, Young Life and Upward Unlimited


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Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).