On Friday, the Satanic Temple announced that it will argue in a new case that the religious freedom of its members is violated by Missouri's harsh anti-abortion laws.
In the Temple's statement, shared on Medium by National Spokesperson Jex Blackmore, the Temple described the story of "Mary Doe," a Missouri resident and member of the Temple. On May 8 2015, Doe entered Planned Parenthood with the intention of getting an abortion. Missouri's "informed consent" laws concerning abortion require facilities to distribute anti-abortion pamphlets, and mandates that the person seeking the abortion both receive an ultrasound and wait 72 hours before the procedure.
These laws, the Temple claims, violate two core tenants of its faith: "One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone,"and "Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world. We should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs." The Temple argues that forcing one of its members to endure such a process is a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a 1993 bill intended to help prevent the government from enforcing laws that interfered with an individual's religious beliefs.
The Temple writes: "However, the State is permitted to burden Mary’s free exercise of religion if they have a compelling interest to do so and are using the least restrictive means possible. Even if the State claims they have a compelling interest in preserving 'unborn life,' the burdens are certainly not the least restrictive means possible. In fact, studies show that mandated waiting periods and informed consent materials have very little impact on birth and abortion rates."
A second violation of Mary Doe's rights occurred when she was given anti-abortion propaganda claiming that human life begins at conception, the Temple claims. The belief is based in specific religious beliefs that run against Doe's own as a member of the Temple. "[T]he First Amendment’s Establishment and Free Exercise Clause... forbids the government from establishing an official religion, but also prohibits government actions that unduly favor one religion over another. It also prohibits the government from unduly preferring religion over non-religion, or non-religion over religion. The Missouri Tenet adopts the religious belief that the life of a human being starts at conception, and in doing so, violates the Establishment Clause."
The Satanic Temple is soliciting donations from the public for Mary Doe's legal costs. Oral arguments in the case will begin at The Missouri State Court Western Appellate District on Monday, September 11, 2017 at 10:30am local time. The United State Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit will take up the case on Wednesday, September 20, 2017 at 9:30am.
The cause of "religious freedom" in the United States has become synonymous with restricting the rights of others – Hobby Lobby, the arts and crafts chain founded by conservative Christians, successfully convinced the Supreme Court that religion prohibited them from paying for employee's contraception (Hobby Lobby's lawyers also cited the Religious Freedom Restoration Act). This year, the court will hear the case of a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.