Civil Liberties

Satanists Take a Stand for Religious Liberty


The Satanic Temple/Facebook

The Satanic Temple is taking a fun, if slightly flawed, stand for both religious and reproductive freedom. The organization—which claims to represent "politically aware Satanists, secularists, and advocates for individual liberty"—is calling on women to opt out of "informed consent" laws that require those seeking abortions to listen to a litany of inaccurate or irrelevant information.

In five states, such laws require telling women that the state favors childbirth to abortion. Others inform about the disreputed link between abortion and breast cancer or the possibility of a nonexistent condition known as "post abortion syndrome." 

"We believe that personal decisions should be made with reference to only the best available, scientifically valid information," The Satanic Temple (TST) website states. It urges like-minded women seeking abortions to print out a TST template letter asserting "a religious exemption from the burden of state ­mandated 'informational' abortion materials." An excerpt from the letter: 

As an adherent to the principles of the Satanic Temple, my sincerely held religious beliefs are:

  • My body is inviolable and subject to my will alone.
  • I make any decision regarding my health based on the best scientific understanding of the world, even if the science does not comport with the religious or political beliefs of others.
  • My inviolable body includes any fetal or embryonic tissue I carry so long as that tissue is unable to survive outside my body as an independent human being.

(…) My informed consent is based solely on information you provide which, in the exercise of your independent medical judgment, is materially relevant to my health (excluding the present or future condition of any fetal or embryonic tissue inside my body) and is scientifically true and accurate. My informed consent is not based on Political Information.

This letter constitutes my acknowledgment that you have offered Political Information to me. I reject that Political Information because it offends my sincerely held religious beliefs. Please attach this letter to any forms you are required to keep regarding my informed consent.

Groups have been challenging politically-motivated abortion consent laws for years, but TST says it is the first to suggest a religious exemption possibility. Stunt or serious move, I think the idea is pretty great.

The "flawed" part is TST linking its initiative to the recent Supreme Court ruling on religious exemptions to the Obamacare contraception mandate. "While we feel we have a strong case for an exemption regardless of the Hobby Lobby ruling, the Supreme Court has decided that religious beliefs are so sacrosanct that they can even trump scientific fact," said TST spokesman Lucien Greaves in a press release. "This was made clear when they allowed Hobby Lobby to claim certain contraceptives were abortifacients, when in fact they are not." 

Though Hobby Lobby's opposition was based on a belief that certain forms of contraception are abortion—an opinion contra the wisdom of medical and scientific communities—the abortifaciant-or-not status of these drugs wasn't up for the court's consideration. And company owners against birth control because it prevents pregnancy, even without thinking it terminates a pregnancy, could still prevail under the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby logic. The point isn't that religious beliefs "trump" scientific facts but that they don't have to depend on them—it doesn't matter if intrauterine devices actually cause abortions or Allah actually requires a certain amount of prayer per day, only that religious individuals sincerely believe these things are true. So TST's Hobby Lobby parallels fail here, but the larger religious freedom claim might just have merit.