The Missouri State Court Western Appellate District is about to hear oral arguments from a religious organization challenging an abortion law. That may not sound like “news” to you, but it is not like anything you have heard before.
The Satanic Temple is arguing that Missouri’s abortion restrictions violate their religious freedom. They are focused primarily on the state’s informed consent law and the mandatory 72-hour waiting period for abortions. They say this law violates one of the member’s, known as “Mary,” religious freedom because of her belief in reproductive autonomy and scientific fact.
According to The Satanic Temple, forcing members to look at non-scientific information to have an abortion is a violation of its beliefs. The group also argues that the 72-hour waiting period in Missouri violates the Free Exercise Clause because it asks members of The Satanic Temple to “consider a religious proposition with which they do not agree.”
This new twist on religious freedom being used to enhance access to abortion by the Satanic Temple started after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling with Hobby Lobby. The high court found that businesses that have religious objections to contraceptives should not be required to cover them on their employee’s insurance. This actually broadened religious liberty claims. Since that ruling, the Satanic Temple has been using religious freedom grounds to argue for better access to reproductive care.
The Satanic Temple has been shaking things up for years. When they signed up to give a Satanic invocation at a Phoenix city council meeting last year, the council voted to stop the practice of opening sessions with prayers. After rejecting a display a year earlier, the Florida Capitol agreed to put up a holiday display from the Satanic Temple that read: “Happy holidays from the Satanic Temple.” It showed a diorama of Lucifer falling into the fires of hell.
Back to “Mary” from the Satanic Temple in Missouri, she believes that her body is “inviolable,” and therefore a mandatory waiting period with no medical justification inflicts a “substantial burden” on her “sincerely held religious beliefs.” She also opposes the law that requires her to be informed that “abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being.”
The state of Missouri is arguing that just because the laws align with the tenets of certain religions, it doesn’t mean the state is advocating on behalf of those beliefs.
Missouri has been a hotbed for religious debate on abortion. In fact, a Missouri state legislator went on camera to slaughter a chicken in a strange statement against legal abortion rights. “God gave us man dominion over life. He allows us to raise animals properly and care for them and then process them for food so we can sustain life. And that’s what I’m doing here with this chicken,” Rep. Mike Moon said before ripping out the animal’s heart.
That prompted Christina Cauterucci, writing for slate.com, to say, “Three cheers for Missouri, the upside-down land where Christians perform the gruesome animal sacrifices and Satanists bring the religious freedom lawsuits.”
What do you think about the Satanic Temple arguing for religious liberty?