Identity

Thank God, Satanists Are Going to Court to Fight for Abortion Rights This Week

Advocates for women's reproductive health have Satan on their side.

by Diana Tourjée
Oct 1 2015, 7:00pm

Photo by Chris Switzer

Satan had representation in Missouri court this week. On Monday, the Satanic Temple presented their response to a motion to dismiss filed by the state of Missouri in June. The organization sued Missouri this summer after state laws infringed on the religious rights of one of the Satanic Temple's constituents, a woman identified in the lawsuit as "Mary Doe." At a Planned Parenthood clinic in Saint Louis earlier this year, she presented a form stating religious exemption from Missouri's restrictive abortion laws, but she was still forced to adhere to the rules. As a Satanist, Mary believes in the inviolability of her body and maintains faith in scientific research. Lucien Greaves, the Temple's spokesperson, says these constitute religious beliefs deserving of legal protection, including exemption from laws and policies encroaching on them.

Mary Doe isn't the first woman to go through a hurdle to get an abortion in Missouri. First, women music travel to a clinic, which in Missouri is no small feat. Only one abortion clinic remains in the state, and this means some patients travel six hours for medical attention. Once they arrive, women are handed an "informed consent" booklet, as dictated by the law, and they must then wait 72 hours to have an abortion. Greaves considers the waiting period unreasonable. "Even if [the clinic is] right next door, it is an arbitrary restriction that shouldn't be burdened upon people," he said. Satanists consider the documents proselytizing propaganda designed to shame and guilt women like Mary, to ultimately bend them to Christian will and forego an abortion procedure.

"Unbeknownst to Christian conservatives, some women who are seeking abortions already have children," Greaves said. "They have to get child care, they have jobs."

In June, the state of Missouri responded to Greaves' lawsuit with a motion to dismiss, suggesting that the 72 waiting period was inconsequential, and the reading material is insignificant because the state doesn't specifically require women to read it. "The idea that the materials are of little consequence because you don't have to read them certainly wouldn't fly in schools if they started passing out Dianetics, by L. Ron Hubbard to the children," Greaves said. "There would be a good deal of outrage." The state believes the Satanists' case has no basis because they see zero faith-based action in Mary Doe accessing abortion services. On Monday, the Satanic Temple's attorneys presented a counterpoint, excerpted from their response statement to Missouri's motion to dismiss:

"The physical act does not necessarily have to be imbued with inherent religious meaning, e.g., prayer. Rather, the physical act includes the entire scope of secular human activity. It runs the range of from paying Social Security taxes, to engaging in business, to purchasing health insurance, to going to school, to wearing beads and killing livestock. It also includes walking into an abortion clinic on any given day and getting an abortion on demand, a routine occurrence in most parts of the country. If the physical act—or abstention therefrom—is motivated by a religious belief, then it is the "exercise of religion."

Satanism is in direct opposition of superstitious supernaturalism known in Christian denominations, but the Satanic Temple is acting in accordance with the same religious laws conservative Christian individuals or organizations regularly use to defend themselves.

"They might not want to see us win in court, but they have to realize that whatever they do is going to set a precedent for the religious liberty they've been trying to forward all this time," Greaves said.

Christians typically site the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The Senate and House passed the bill in 1993 with the support of the White House. According to President Bill Clinton, the bill forces the government to have "a very high level of proof before it interferes with someone's free exercise of religion." Multiple states have passed further religious protection laws, and since gay marriage passed, conservatives have called for even more legislation.

"When RFRA was proposed in both Michigan and Indiana, the signatories to the bill cited that tired example of the baker having to make a cake for a homosexual couple," Greaves explained. "What a travesty that would be to their religious beliefs to have to do so—and thus, because of Gay Rights, we need RFRA. [The Satanic Temple has] specific tenets related to bodily autonomy and scientific information, and we've leveraged those for a Freedom of Choice position. It would be difficult to see how that could be dismissed as superfluous and unworthy of what we're claiming, and yet still use RFRA to exempt people from providing goods and services to gay couples."

The Satanic Temple levy their beliefs to balance the scale in US politics away from dominant Christian ideology as it encroaches upon the personal liberty of other Americans citizens. They're an active organization. While anti-abortion activists protested an abortion clinic last, Satanists illustrated forced motherhood through Templars dressed as priests dousing milk over bound women. The Satanic performers were bound in representation of the way anti-abortion movements impose beliefs upon women against their will.

Under Greaves, the Satanic Temple has successfully prevented the erection of a Christian monument of the Ten Commandments in Oklahoma's capitol. The state argued the Ten Commandments were foundational to American constitutional law. Greaves viewed this lawmakers attempting to rewrite history through legislation.

"Nothing could be further from the truth," he said. "I get the impression that they feel, if a bill is passed into law it also verifies an historical claim. You see cannibalistic citation. It's similar to some of the conspiracist camps, as in 9/11 truthers. Once someone writes it, it becomes citation for somebody else, gaining credibility and becomes a devolving spiral from there."

Monday's abortion hearing was brief. Greaves isn't certain when the court will issue a ruling, but he's confident that the state's motion to dismiss cannot be upheld. If successful, anyone in the state of Missouri who believes in bodily autonomy and trusts in scientific research may be able to surpass conservative abortion restrictions—it would set a precedent for national exception from conservative Christian law.

"According to our one lawyer, he thought the direction the judge was taking the questions worked in our favor," Greaves said. "Really, there only has to be a legitimate legal question for them to not grant the motion to dismiss, and we think there very clearly is."

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