It will be no small irony if Satanists turn out to be heroes of religious freedom in our time.
Christian Right leaders, who claim that it is a violation of their religious freedom to extend a variety of civil rights—including marriage equality to LGBTQ people — are not victims of creeping secularism (as they would have us believe). But their unleashing of the notion that religious individuals, nonprofits, and business owners are entitled to exemptions from the law may have some remarkably unintended consequences — and groups including some Satanists are capitalizing on the Christian Right’s own false framework.
These conservative religious leaders’ attempt to advance a religious supremacist political agenda under the rubric of religious freedom was bound to get tangled up in contradictions.
Since the Supreme Court decision in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, the notion of religious exemptions has sadly gained currency in several state legislatures. But the Boston-based Satanic Temple, which claims to be both serious about Satanism as well as satire (the group has chapters in several states, and says it does not believe in supernaturalism and has nothing to do with the evil figure depicted in some Christian traditions), wants to show that if that door of religious exemptions is to be opened, conservative Christians are not the only ones who are going to walk through it and claim exemptions from the law for religious reasons.
Satanic Temple members in Missouri are claiming that the state-mandated 72 hour waiting period prior to receiving an abortion, to borrow from the language of Hobby Lobby, places a “substantial burden” on the “sincerely held religious beliefs” of a Satanic Temple member going by the pseudonym “Mary.”
This is part of an effort by the Temple aimed at leveling the religious liberty playing field which has been thrown off-balance by right-wing leaders seeking to contain LGBTQ equality advances.
The group notes that over the past few decades, some states have enacted a variety of bills intended to make it more difficult and expensive to obtain and to provide abortions.
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The Guttmacher Institute reports that hundreds of these have been enacted in some two dozen states since 2010. Many impose medically unnecessary waiting periods ranging from 24 to 72 hours.
The Satanic Temple observed that “Those who define the issue in terms of personal choice typically find their views marginalized as being outside of the realm of religious protection.