Satanic Temple Claims Abortion Is Part of Their Religion in Effort to Block Abortion Bans

TST created an abortion ritual that it claims will exempt women from state laws. Critics say the group is on shaky legal ground.
Satanic Temple Claims Abortion Is Part of Their Religion in Effort to Block Abortion Bans
A pro-life activist holds a plastic fetus in a protest in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, on June 23, 2022. (Nathan Howard/Getty Images)
Darlene McCormick Sanchez
2/9/2024
Updated:
2/9/2024
0:00

A satanic group is continuing attempts to overturn abortion bans in pro-life states by filing lawsuits claiming abortion is part of their religion.

The Satanic Temple (TST), a nonprofit based in Salem, Massachusetts, has filed lawsuits in Missouri, Indiana, Texas, and Idaho that so far have been unsuccessful.

That hasn’t stopped the headline-grabbing organization from plaintiff-shopping for new religious freedom lawsuits to stop abortion bans, according to its website.

The group doesn’t shy away from controversy. It made news recently for staging a satanic holiday display featuring a silver goat head atop blood-red robes during Christmas at the Iowa Capitol. The Baphomet statue shared space with a Christmas display until it was decapitated.

Michael Cassidy, a former U.S. Navy fighter pilot who ran for office in Mississippi, took credit for tearing it down. The Christian conservative raised $120,000 as of early February for legal fees after being charged with criminal mischief. Recently, prosecutors announced they are charging him with a felony hate crime.

TST created an abortion ritual that it claims will exempt women from their states’ laws. The ritual, along with TST’s new abortion clinic in New Mexico, was featured in November’s Cosmopolitan magazine.

Proponents of abortion feel a woman should have control over her body, and abortion should be a choice. Pro-life groups contend that life starts at conception and that the developing child has the right to life.

TST named their clinic Samuel Alito’s Mom’s Satanic Abortion Clinic, mocking the U.S. Supreme Court justice who wrote the majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overturned Roe v. Wade.

The abortion ritual involves the recitation of two of the group’s tenets and reinforces the idea of bodily autonomy.

“The Satanic Abortion Ritual is a destruction ritual that serves as a protective rite,” the website states. “Its purpose is to cast off notions of guilt, shame, and mental discomfort that a patient may be experiencing due to choosing to have a legal and medically safe abortion.”

Pro-choice demonstrators and anti-abortion activists meet on the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington, as the court prepares to hear arguments reopening the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade, on April 26, 1989. (Greg Gibson/AFP via Getty Images)
Pro-choice demonstrators and anti-abortion activists meet on the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington, as the court prepares to hear arguments reopening the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade, on April 26, 1989. (Greg Gibson/AFP via Getty Images)

The group’s website states that it relies on several legal arguments: that denying members access to abortion infringes on their religious right to participate in a satanic abortion ritual; that forcing someone to carry an unwanted child amounts to seizing a woman’s uterus without compensation; and that forced pregnancy is akin to servitude, in violation of the 13th Amendment, which abolishes slavery.

In the case of Indiana, the group argues that the abortion restrictions criminalize abortions resulting from protected sex and create a class of people who are discriminated against because they are denied an abortion.

Recent judicial rulings, such as the case of a Christian business owner denying services to LGBT people on religious grounds, appear to be part of the group’s legal strategy to flip the script on abortion bans. Except in this case, their religion involves providing the service of ritualized abortion.

Critics say the legal strategies are shaky.

Jonathan Hullihan is a Texas attorney for Citizens Defending Freedom, a watchdog group focused on liberties guaranteed by the Constitution. He told The Epoch Times that the High Court’s decision in Dobbs held that the Constitution did not confer a right to an abortion, leaving it to states to regulate.

TST has brought claims under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) or state versions, he said.

“This is an attempt to recognize a federal constitutional right to abortion in direct conflict with the Dobbs holding,” Mr. Hullihan said.

People protest in response to the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization ruling in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, on June 24, 2022. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
People protest in response to the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization ruling in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, on June 24, 2022. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

“While courts generally don’t question the sincerity of religious beliefs, the claim that religious beliefs require members to seek an abortion is unlikely to prevail in court,” he said. When contacted for comment, Lucien Greaves, TST co-founder and spokesperson, told The Epoch Times that critics don’t have a monopoly on freedom of religion.

ProLove Ministries founder and CEO Abby Johnson questioned the idea of religion without a deity.

“I think it’s interesting they’re trying to get a religious exemption when they say over and over and over again that satanism isn’t a religion and they’re non-theistic,” she told the Epoch Times.

“So, I’m like, ‘Tell me again how you are trying to get a religious exemption?’” she said.

‘Out of Touch’

Opponents of abortion argue that religious freedom doesn’t mean anything goes.

“The Supreme Court has made it pretty clear that you’re not allowed to claim a religious exemption to get away with doing whatever you want to,” said Eric Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League.

TST’s rhetoric about choice ignores the facts about abortion, Mr. Scheidler said. Some 60 percent of women who get an abortion felt “high levels of pressure” to do so, according to a 2023 study in the National Library of Medicine.

“They are really out of touch,” Mr. Scheidler told The Epoch Times. “I mean, most Americans find a story like this kind of horrifying, people making light of abortion.”

A 2021 government study found more than 90 percent of biologists believe life begins at conception.

Mr. Scheidler suspects part of the group’s goal is to play the provocateur.

“They get some sort of adolescent thrill out of the imagined conniption fits that they drive religious people into with their antics,” Mr. Scheidler said. “In fact, we sort of roll our eyes and carry on with the real business.”

Epoch Times reporters Sam Dorman, Samantha Flom, and Jackson Elliott contributed to this report.
Darlene McCormick Sanchez reports for The Epoch Times from Texas. She writes on a variety of issues with a focus on Texas politics, election fraud, and the erosion of traditional values. She previously worked as an investigative reporter and covered crime, courts, and government for newspapers in Texas, Florida, and Connecticut. Her work on The Sinful Messiah series, which exposed Branch Davidians leader David Koresh, was named a Pulitzer Prize finalist for investigative reporting in the 1990s.