Reason Roundup

The Satanic Temple: If Christians Can Raise Flag at Boston City Hall, We Can Raise Ours Too

Plus: The push to abolish the Senate, Feds hike interest rates by 0.5 percent, and more...


Boston was wrong to forbid a religious group from flying a Christian flag outside City Hall, per a new U.S. Supreme Court ruling issued earlier this week. Should the city have to allow a Satanic flag to fly there, too? That would certainly seem to be the implication of the ruling—and now The Satanic Temple is putting it to the test.

In a decision issued Monday, the Court held that since Boston permitted many different private groups to fly many different types of flags outside City Hall, it could not rightfully prohibit a group called Camp Constitution from displaying what it described as a Christian flag. "Boston did not make the raising and flying of private groups' flags a form of government speech," the Court noted in a unanimous opinion, which means that refusing to let Camp Constitution raise its flag was a form of impermissible viewpoint-based discrimination that violated the group's First Amendment rights.

The Satanic Temple is responding to the Supreme Court's ruling by applying with the city of Boston to fly its flag in front of City Hall.

The group—which is not so much a bunch of devil worshippers as a group dedicated to protecting free speech, freedom of religion, and separation of church and state—applied to raise and lower its flag this July in celebration of "Satanic Appreciation Week."

"Religious Liberty is a bedrock principle in a democracy, and Religious Liberty is dependent upon government viewpoint neutrality," Satanic Temple co-founder Lucien Greaves said in a statement. "When public officials are allowed to preference certain religious viewpoints over others, we do not have Religious Liberty, we have theocracy."

The city is "carefully reviewing the Court's decision and its recognition of city governments' authority to operate similar programs," a spokesperson from Boston Mayor Michelle Wu's office told CNN. "As we consider next steps, we will ensure that future City of Boston programs are aligned with this decision."

While applications for flag-raising events are still available online, the city's website says that "effective October 19, 2021, the City of Boston is no longer accepting flag-raising applications. We're re-evaluating the program in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision to consider whether the program as currently operated complies with Constitutional requirements."

The request to raise a Satanic flag is typical for The Satanic Temple, which is recognized by the IRS as an atheistic religious corporation and "combines theatrical stunts with political activism," as Todd Krainin put it in a 2019 Reason TV video. Its "tenets are about rebellion against authority, checking your beliefs against our best evidence…autonomy, freedom, liberty," Penny Lane, director of the documentary Hail Satan?, told Reason TV.

The group is known for attempts to place Satanic statues in places where religious statues are allowed and to start Satanic clubs at public schools where religious clubs are allowed.

It's also a staunch defender of abortion access. For instance, in August 2021, it wrote to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration seeking a religious exemption to prescription requirements for the abortion-inducing drugs mifepristone and misoprostol.

Its members use "these products in a sacramental setting," it said. "The Satanic Abortion Ritual is a sacrament which surrounds and includes the abortive act. It is designed to combat feelings of guilt, doubt, and shame and to empower the member to assert or reassert power and control over their own mind and body." Having to get a prescription "substantially interferes with the Satanic Abortion Ritual because the Government impedes the members' access to the medication involved in the ritual."

The group asserted that "the prescription requirement infringes upon its memberships' religious liberty, in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act."


Abolish the Senate? Noah Smith rails against progressives who react to things like the potential overturning of Roe v. Wade with calls to blow up (metaphorically) U.S. institutions rather than work to effect change through elections and persuasion. Specifically, he rails against calls to abolish the Senate. The thread starts here:

"If you can't get the votes to exercise power through existing institutions, what makes you think you have enough popular support to overthrow the institutions themselves???" Smith asks, going on to note how "talk about going beyond institutionalism, or exercising real power, etc.," quickly leads to empty rhetoric about civil war.

Rather than "civil war muttering" on social media, people should work "to produce change by building supermajority national support via grassroots organizing and mass persuasion," writes Smith. "This is how marriage equality was achieved. But it takes lots of time and effort and compromise." And "in an age when people are used to the instant gratification of getting people fired via social media outrage, the slow exercise of power through organizing and persuasion might seem like horrifyingly antiquated."

"If you really want deep and systemic change, take a Twitter break and rediscover the lost art of grassroots organizing and mass persuasion. Because that is the only way most big things get done in a democracy," Smith concludes.

It's a good message for folks on the right as well…


The Federal Reserve will raise interest rates by 0.5 percent—"the most aggressive increase made in a single meeting since May 2000," notes Yahoo. Since then, it has only hiked interest rates in increments of 0.25 percent. But "the labor market is extremely tight and inflation is much too high," said Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell. "Against this backdrop, today the [Federal Open Market Committee] raised its policy interest rate by a half-percentage point."


• The White House realizes its hands are tied if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. "Biden has pressed Congress to codify Roe v. Wade, the only mechanism outside the Supreme Court—or a constitutional amendment, which seems even less likely—that could protect abortion rights. But Democrats concede that effort seems out of reach," reports The Washington Post.

• Does returning decisions about abortion to the states increase liberty or shrink it? Nick Gillespie and Josh Blackman discuss.

Reason's Stephanie Slade offers "a qualified defense of letting states decide on abortion." (See also: Slade and I talking about abortion in this 2019 podcast.)

• Megan McArdle suggests we don't have to worry about birth control bans or states forbidding interracial marriage. Conor Friedersdorf also weighs in:

The Libertarian Party asked members about abortion. "Nobody else has the right to decide if, when and how you become a parent. Nobody else has the right to impose upon your property or your body without your informed, ongoing and unambiguous consent," said one. Another commented: "I want to see abortion end.…However I also know that creating more government and an even more authoritarian police state is not the best we can do and is likely to lead to some horrible outcomes." More answers here.

• The Trans Youth Project tracked 317 American and Canadian children who socially transitioned genders between ages 3 and 12 years old. "The vast majority of the group still identified with their new gender five years later," reports The New York Times, "and many had begun hormonal medications in adolescence to prompt biological changes to align with their gender identities."

• The Osceola County Sheriff's Office* won't reveal information about the officers who killed Jayden Baez last week:

• More companies are pledging to protect employees' abortion access.

• Mutations in two new omicron variants are allowing them to reinfect people who've already been infected with the omicron edition of COVID-19.

* CORRECTION: This post previously misstated the location of the police who killed Jayden Baez.