Beliefs Culture Politics

Satanists’ challenge to Hobby Lobby ruling may face legal hurdles

The Satanic Temple's logo features Baphomet and a pentacle below the organization's initials.

(RNS) A group of Satanists is challenging the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision by providing a letter women can give to doctors to avoid being handed state-mandated “informed consent” literature before seeking an abortion.

The Satanic Temple's logo features Baphomet and a pentacle below the organization's initials.

Image courtesy The Satanic Temple

The Satanic Temple’s logo features Baphomet and a pentacle below the organization’s initials.

But constitutional lawyers say the effort may be a toothless challenge with little or no legal footing.

Even so, that doesn’t deter the Satanic Temple, a New York-based organization that claims 10,000 members. The group does not believe in a literal devil but sees Satan as a a symbol of philosophical rebellion against supernatural beliefs. It takes issue with state-mandated “informed consent” literature given to women seeking to terminate a pregnancy.

“We are saying we do not believe the state-mandated information is integral to making our decisions about health care, and we find it coercive and we will likewise seek an exemption,” said Jex Blackmore, a spokeswoman for the Satanic Temple and head of its Detroit chapter, the first outside New York.

The Satanists’ thinking goes like this: If the Supreme Court’s ruling in June’s Hobby Lobby decision means corporations have the same religious rights as individuals, then individuals should have the same rights as corporations and thus have their religious beliefs protected.

“We are not a corporation, but we are still people, so the underlying claim that the rights applying to corporations as individuals still apply to people with personhood,” Blackmore said. “You don’t have to be part of corporation to have rights protected as a person.”

The beliefs in question are the Satanists’ reliance on science, Blackmore said, and not on “bias” or “political influence” that they say are behind the state-mandated literature given to women seeking abortions.

“As an adherent to the principles of the Satanic Temple, my sincerely held religious beliefs are: My body is inviolable and subject to my will alone,” the letter begins. “I make any decision regarding my 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.”

The letter goes on to equate state-mandated literature with “political information” and says that communicating it “imposes an unwanted and substantial burden on my religious beliefs.”

But constitutional scholars and lawyers who were shown the letter say it’s riddled with legal red flags.

“It is not altogether clear to me that even if sincere, their beliefs are in fact religious, as opposed to merely philosophical,” said Cole Durham, a law professor at Brigham Young University. Even if they do meet that standard, he continued, “informed consent laws are general and neutral laws which do not target any specific religion, and thus would override constitutional free exercise claims.”

All 50 states have some form of informed-consent laws; 35 of them specifically pertain to abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks reproductive rights.

Robert Destro, a law professor at the Catholic University of America, said the Satanists have a basic misunderstanding of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the 1993 law the Supreme Court cited as the basis for its decision in Hobby Lobby. RFRA applies only to the federal government, so it would not apply to state-mandated literature.

But even if state versions of RFRA were found by a court to apply, there is still trouble with the Satanists’ assertion, Destro continued. If a state law requires informed consent, and a doctor does not give out the literature, he or she is in violation of the law — and can be sued by the patient afterward.

“So, in the end, the doctor has a choice to make: either offer the materials, or not,” he said. “Religion has nothing to do with it.”

Blackmore acknowledged that the challenge was a complicated one.

“The legal nuances of that, we trust, will be played out in court by lawyers who are able to debate this,” she said. “This is a complicated issue with several avenues to explore.”

“The Satanic Temple” unveiled its proposal for a monument it intends to erect next to another religious statue: a depiction of the Ten Commandments on the Oklahoma State Capitol. Illustration courtesy of The Satanic Temple

The Satanic Temple has unveiled its proposal for a monument it intends to erect next to another religious statue — a depiction of the Ten Commandments — on the Oklahoma State Capitol grounds. Illustration courtesy of the Satanic Temple

The Satanic Temple has attempted to take advantage of a court ruling before. In January, it released plans for a monument featuring a horned Satan figure for the grounds of the Oklahoma State Legislature. The group also gained attention in May when a proposed “black Mass” at Harvard University prompted a protest.

Blackmore said the current letter is “a first step” in a larger women’s health initiative that will focus on reproductive rights.

“Our overall goal is to protect abortion access,  but we are also interested in combating mandated ultrasounds, right-to-know laws and any coercive, typically religious-based mandates from the state,” she said.


About the author

Kimberly Winston

Kimberly Winston is a freelance religion reporter based in the San Francisco Bay Area.


Click here to post a comment

  • Hail Satan!

    For once religion is being used in support of education, proper medicine and civil liberties!

    There is nothing religiously neutral about these “informed consent” or mandatory ultrasound measures. They are deliberate actions influenced by Conservative Christians to create undue delays in the process of obtaining an abortion and to create a financial burden on poor women who wish to have one. None of this has anything to do with medical or scientific information. Simply trying a backdoor abortion ban by making the process unnecessarily cumbersome.

  • Satan is definitely real and as Jesus said of him: “That one was a manslayer when he began, for he did not stand fast in truth, because truth is not in him.” (John 8:44; 1 John 3:8)

    Evidently, Satan was once in the truth but forsook it. His first act was turning Adam and Eve from God, and he was a manslayer, causing the death of Adam and Eve, which brought sin and death to their offspring, us! (Romans 5:12)

    Throughout the Scriptures, the qualities and actions attributed to him could only be attributed to a person, not an abstract principle of evil. The Jews, Jesus and his disciples knew that Satan existed as a person. Satan even tempted Jesus to fall down and worship him, along with other tests, but Jesus proved victorious and faithful to his Father, God (Matthew 4:1-11).

    It was Satan who spoke to Eve through the use of a serpent, seducing her to disobey God. The Bible gives Satan the term “Serpent”, which signifies “deceiver”; he also became the “Tempter” (Matthew 4:3) and a liar, the father of the lie (John 8:44; Revelation 12:9).

    The apostle Peter wrote of Satan, warning Christians: “Keep your senses, be watchful. Your adversary, the Devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone. But take your stand against him, knowing that the same things in the way of sufferings are being accomplished in the entire association of your brothers in the world.” (1Peter 5:8,9).

    Fortunately for mankind, the book of Revelation describes Satan’s last days and death. Satan is hurled down out of heaven to the earth, no longer having access to the heavens (Rev. 12:7-12). We can definitely see the affects of his influence on earth today.

    After that defeat, Satan has only a short period of time left to deceive mankind (Rev. 12:12) to cause their death. We are now living in those days.

    Revelation chapter 20 describe Satan’s being bound and abyssed for 1,000 years at the hand of a great angel, Jesus, who has the key of the abyss (Rev. 1:18) and is the seed to bruise Satan’s head (Genesis 3:15).

    Prophecy says Satan is let loose one “for a little time” as soon as Jesus’ 1,000-year rule is over; that he will lead rebellious persons on another attack on God’s right to rule, but he is hurled with his demons and those who follow them, into the lake of fire, everlasting destruction (Rev. 20:1-3, 7-10).

    What a blessed day that will be!! 😀

  • I am glad that you sought an opinion from an unbiased source (professor at the Vatican’s official US college) instead of asking some biased liberal athiest from a seculer college. That kind of objective reporting is why I turn to RNS instead of the lametream lieberal media.

  • Get your popcorn.

    Man thinks he can live by his own will, and society falls apart while he tries. The entertainment has begun.

  • Any fool who denies medicine and scientific knowledge when making decisions concerning their health in favor of religion.

    A bigger fool thinks their religious belief permits them to decide such things for others.

  • @ Larry

    ” A….fool thinks their religious belief permits them to decide such things for others. ”

    Well said.

  • Knock, Knock.
    “Who’s there?”
    “What do want?”
    I want you to let me in so I can protect you from what I will do to you if you don’t let me in.

  • “The Satanists’ thinking goes like this: If the Supreme Court’s ruling in June’s Hobby Lobby decision means corporations have the same religious rights as individuals, then individuals should have the same rights as corporations and thus have their religious beliefs protected.”

    Religion ruins everything.

    The American Christians think it will be best
    to have NO WALL separating church and state.
    Until they discover that this means religious chaos and a destruction of law and order.
    But that takes time and people are very slow to learn.
    Even The Supreme Court has shown it is stupid regarding this.

    As Benjamin Franklin emerged from Independence Hall at the close of the Constitutional Convention in on September 18, 1787, a woman asked him, “Well Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?”

    Benjamin Franklin replied, “A republic, madam – if you can keep it.”

  • Larry’s appeal to science and medicine is a somewhat problematic one. His past arguments regarding when life begins are philosophical, not medical or scientific. Though there may be some divergence in the medical and scientific community regarding the moment when life begins, a sufficient number of medical professionals and biologists are of the opinion that regardless of final social policy with respect to abortion, the prenatal infant in the womb is in fact alive. Such an opinion should not be discarded cavalierly, at least if your are arguing from the point of view of medicine and science, and concommittantly human rights.

  • Problematic in that I want people to receive care based on the best knowledge available while preserving individual liberties to make personal choices without the religious peccadillos of others mucking up the process.

    “When life begins” was always a loaded irrelevant issue. Where life resides was always the most important. If its in a womb, it is the mothers will which is the only relevant issue. Your concern must be discarded casually because it is not your body or your choice.

  • U like to discard palestineians casually too, don’t ya larry. The jewish state says “your concerns for them must be discarded casually, cause its not your concern nor choice.”

    Further the jewish state says “hama will pay”. But in fact, just made multiple thousands of palis pay. Oh yeah, not my choice….your the victim here. I forgot. Just like the mother with child is the victim, right larry?

  • Nice quote from the original Dune movie from the satanic temple. I’m waiting for the “at my will alone I will set my mind in motion. By the juices of sapho…”

  • No one who is involved wold suppose that BYU is associated with the Vatican – neither BYU nor the Vatican. May I suppose that the author of this comment has been duped by Mormon propaganda and has dismissed all the articles and books written to assert that Mormonism is NOT simply a Christian sect?

  • She interviewed a scholar from Catholic University of America. I have been called dim before, but I’m pretty sure they are Catholic? Not Mormon.

    Maybe ypu are overly obsessed with Mormonism. I used to be too until Mitt came along. If he is ok with the GOP he is ok with me. I have learned to stop worrying and love the Mormons.

  • Our present system of government regularly intervenes, mandates, and requires a host of things that can reasonably argued as ‘personal’ to a given individual. In our present reality the ‘personal’ carries little weight with the powers that be. That’s almost beside the point since you regularly avoid answering legitimate challenges to your arguments by dismissing them as ‘Crap,’ ‘Bullcrap,’ and ‘Lies.’ Medicine and science effectively refute your philosophical constructs about life; And regardless of circumstance; war, starvation, pregnancy, etc., it is all about life. The illegitimate denial of life by virtue of choice however personal is a crime against humanity.

  • So you have to deny the existence or attack of all personal liberties to get your way. We know that already. This is why abortion is legal.

    Because we value personal liberties over the whining of moralizing self-righteous narcissists. Just because you think you have moral high ground, doesn’t mean you get a say in what someone does with their body and how they live their lives. The lives of others aren’t subject to your approval.

    The rights and personal liberties of a born person outweigh those of the unborn life depending on said born person for its existence. Its simply a question of logical priorities. A fetus can’t live without its mother’s will. Therefore the mother is the only person whose decisions matter concerning the fetus.

    I don’t have to care when you think life begins. It was never a relevant issue. It matters where life resides. Until its born, only the mother keeps it alive, therefore only the mother’s decisions matter here. Not
    your body, not your decision. You don’t get a say in the matter.

    The only life you take into consideration is the fetus, not the mother.
    Your POV depends entirely on ignoring, attacking or minimizing her life and presence. You have to pretend the mother doesn’t exist. You have to spin really stupid lies equating a fetus with a born child. You have to engage in s1utshaming. You have to pretend that being born again entitles you to twice the rights as everyone else.

    I can disregard your concern because ultimately you are looking to do the physically impossible. To give a fetus rights which runs counter to the only life on the planet who ensures its existence. So it is obvious bullcrap born of a narcissistic view that every woman must bend to your will and accept your view in order to live their lives.

2019 NewsMatch Campaign: This Story Can't Wait! Donate.