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Satanic Temple: Missouri Anti-Choice Restrictions an ‘Affront’ to Religious Freedom

Nina Liss-Schultz

The Satanic Temple last week filed a lawsuit against Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, alleging that the state’s abortion restrictions violate temple members’ freedom of religion.

Satanic worshippers are using a conservative religious argument in defense of abortion rights.

The Satanic Temple last week filed a lawsuit against Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D), alleging that the state’s abortion restrictions violate temple members’ freedom of religion.

A woman, identified in the lawsuit as Mary Doe, had gone to a Planned Parenthood in Missouri seeking an abortion. Mary, a member of the Satanic Temple, handed a clinic employee a waiver requesting that Planned Parenthood allow her to bypass the state’s 72-hour abortion waiting period and informed consent laws, restrictions that Mary claimed go against her religious beliefs.

“My body is inviolable and subject to my will alone,” Mary’s waiver reads. “I—and I alone—decide whether my inviolable body remains pregnant and I may, in good conscience, disregard the current or future condition of any fetal or embryonic tissue I carry in making that decision.”

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“It is my deeply held religious belief an abortion does not terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being,” the waiver read. “I respectfully request that you provide me with an abortion today.”

When the exemption waiver was rejected, the Satanists filed a lawsuit against the state of Missouri, saying that the waiting period law passed by the state’s Republican-dominated legislature poses an undue burden on Mary’s ability to exercise her religious beliefs, in violation of the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

If that argument sounds familiar, it’s because it is: The federal RFRA was central in the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision allowing the Green family to deny its employees access to contraception because of their religious beliefs. Since then, lawsuits from organizations alleging that covering birth control violates their religious freedom have flooded the federal court system.

Indiana’s GOP-led legislature recently passed its own RFRA, which supporters hailed as a victory for companies with Christian owners who want to refuse services to LGBTQ people.

It remains unclear whether the Satanic Temple’s argument that the RFRA should protect the right to abortion will hold up in court. Regardless, the temple’s lawsuit highlights possible contradictions in “religious freedom” arguments. As Amanda Marcotte wrote for Rolling Stone:

It’s an obvious, and brilliant, ploy to test how serious conservatives are about their supposed belief that a person’s “religious liberty” rights mean they can opt out of laws they simply don’t like. The Satanists are trying to prove that conservatives are hypocrites whose interest in religious exemptions only applies to situations where they can take away someone’s birth control, or ruin a same-sex couple’s wedding.

A spokesperson for the Satanic Temple whose pen name is Lucien Greaves wrote in an op-ed for the Orlando Weekly that the temple plans to see the case through and fight “for bodily autonomy and personal sovereignty.”

“No matter the outcome, however, we we feel that The Satanic Temple has already done much to reframe the ongoing debate regarding Religious Liberty, its uses and limits,” Greaves continued. “Suddenly gone are the days in which Religious Privilege seemed to exist to the benefit of a single creed. All at once, the all-too-numerous flagrant theocrats holding public office across the nation are made to sullenly realize that Religious Liberty isn’t theirs alone. Hail Satan.”

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