Why Is The Satanic Temple Fighting For Abortion Rights?

by Sarah C. Epstein

From their name alone, you wouldn’t think The Satanic Temple (TST) is founded on a platform of social justice. They follow the lord of the underworld, a dude who spits hellfire, sends his demonic minions out to possess the dead, and bathes in the blood of infants, right? Wrong. In an op-ed in The Washington Post, members of TST describe themselves as following a “Satan that defies all subjugation, exalts scientific inquiry and promotes Humanistic, pluralistic values.” In short, they believe in fighting for individual rights and equality.

It’s not surprising, then, that yesterday, The Satanic Temple won a lawsuit on behalf of its member, an anonymous woman named “Mary Doe,” claiming that the state of Missouri had violated Mary’s religious freedoms by infringing on her right to an abortion.

Satanists (and other chill folks) don’t believe that “life begins at conception.” So, when—as legally required by the state of Missouri—Planned Parenthood handed Mary a booklet saying that the little lump of cells in her uterus was a “separate, unique, living human being” and that she would “terminate” that being if she underwent the procedure, she was pretty pissed. Mary knew that the “human tissue,” as she refered to it in The Washington Post,  was just like any other part of her body, subject to her choice, and her choice alone.

Doe’s case is one of two pro-abortion lawsuits TST has brought against the state of Missouri this year in the hopes of overturning the state’s stringent abortion regulations. TST’s lawers argued that Missouri’s abortion restrictions violated Mary’s religious rights, which are protected under both the first amendment, and the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). “The imposition of an ultrasound and the opportunity to hear the fetal heartbeat were both medically unnecessary and an attempt to impose shame upon Mary, in violation of her personal religious beliefs,” representatives of TST said in a press release.

This isn’t the first time the Satanic Temple has challenged right-wing lawmakers and bigoted public figures. However, their methods generally encompass public demonstrations that blur the line between political protest and real-life trolling before they reach a courtroom.

In 2013, in protest against the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church’s beliefs, and its homophobic founder, Fred Phelps, TST members staged a demonstration, called the “pink mass,” at Phelp’s mother’s grave, which featured public displays of affection between same-sex couples, reported The Washington Post. 

In 2015, while trying to sway lawmakers into removing a statue of the Ten Commandments from the Oklahoma Capitol, Satanists tried to erect their own statue of Baphomet—a satyr-like occultist icon— next door on the grounds of religious freedom. While they weren’t involved in the removal lawsuit, but they “may have forced the court’s hand,” TST said in an interview with The New York Times.

Last May, weighing in on a debate regarding the separation between Church and State in Minnesota, the Temple tried to commission a veterans monument: a black box replete with pentagrams and an upside-down helmet. According to The Washington Post, when the city barred the memorial’s creation, the Temple sued on account of violating their member’s right to free speech and religious freedom.

In July, as response to a Texas school board ruling that encouraged the use of corporal punishment, Satanists installed a billboard along route 281 that read, “Our religion doesn’t believe in hitting children. Paid for by the Satanic Temple,” reported The Washington Post.

Although they’re technically a religious institution, group members consider themselves atheists; the cases they bring to court are  meant to stave off the creep of religious ideology as it encroaches on personal freedom and violates individual rights. In a press release, the temple said they aim to “encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense and justice, and be directed by the human conscience to undertake noble pursuits guided by the individual will.”

The Temple is still waiting on the outcome of their other abortion rights violation case, The Satanic Temple v. Attorney General Joshua D. Hawley. “A ruling against us would demonstrate that the courts believe that religious liberties as they relate to reproductive rights exclusively apply to Christians such as in the Hobby Lobby case,” said Jex Blackmore, TST’s reproductive rights spokesperson in a press release. “We look forward to proving our case in court, and liberating women of alternative faiths from the State’s oppressive theocratic stranglehold over personal medical health procedures.”

top photo from The Satanic Temple

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