Satanists sue Missouri for religious exemption to antiabortion law: "Religious liberty isn’t theirs alone"

The Satanic Temple is making good on its promise to challenge the state's 72-hour waiting period under RFRA

By Jenny Kutner

Published May 11, 2015 8:25PM (EDT)

Sculpture created by the Satanic Temple               (MSNBC)
Sculpture created by the Satanic Temple (MSNBC)

The Satanic Temple, an unlikely and productive ally in the fight for reproductive justice, is following through on a promise to sue the state of Missouri for enforcing antiabortion legislation, which Satanists believe impedes their free exercise of religion. The temple claims that by refusing to grant one of its members, identified as Mary Doe, an exemption to its 72-hour abortion waiting period, the state placed an undue burden on the woman's religious beliefs in violation of Missouri's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Writing for Orlando Weekly, Satanic Temple spokesperson Lucien Greaves announced on Friday that Satanists filed a petition for an injunction against Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and State Attorney General Chris Koster, after the exemption waiver Mary presented at Planned Parenthood of St. Louis (the state's only abortion clinic) was rejected:

Specifically at issue are state-mandated “informed consent” materials, medically irrelevant anti-abortion propaganda and a mandatory 72-hour (3 day) abortion waiting period. TST’s legal argument leverages the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) — commonly popular among Christian conservatives who endorse it as essential to preserving the spiritual innocence of pious bakers who might otherwise be forced to bake cakes for Godless homosexuals — and the move is certain to provoke a firestorm of controversy and witticisms. [...]

We argue that the “informed consent” materials are an affront to our guiding principles of self-determination and personal autonomy (beliefs which hold that a woman should be free to make “decisions regarding her health based on the best scientific understanding of the world, even if the science does not comport with the religious or political beliefs of others”). As such, the 72-hour waiting period — itself a burden upon our religious belief in the freedom to make decisions “voluntarily, without coercion and in an informed manner” — is moot and without justification.

The argument is, as Greaves characterizes it, "nuanced" -- and it's yet unclear how TST's claims will play out in court. In addition to requesting damages for Mary for being forced to comply with the state's waiting period and counseling requirements against her religious beliefs, the temple is also pushing for the abortion restrictions to be overturned completely. After all, if the group can prove enforcement of the law does violate Missouri's RFRA, something might have to give. It might just be that the state will have to start applying religious liberty protections more evenly.

"We are dedicated to seeing this case through, and we will fight -- with every resource available to us -- for bodily autonomy and personal sovereignty," Greaves said. "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."

Jenny Kutner

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