SALEM, Mass. — The Satanic Temple (TST), which describes itself as non-theistic and considers Satan a metaphor for autonomy and rebellion rather than a literal being, has announced the creation of a “ritual” to be conducted whenever a woman obtains an abortion in an effort to obtain an exemption from state abortion regulations under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
“The Satanic Temple is proud to announce its religious abortion ritual, a ceremony rooted in our deeply-held beliefs,” an announcement page on its website states. “This ritual may be performed by our members as a way to fortify self-worth, instill confidence, and provide spiritual comfort.”
According to a letter TST created for mothers to present to abortion providers, the ritual involves placing oneself in a “meditative and contemplative state” and reciting certain tenets written by the organization.
“The abortion procedure is central to the ritual,” the letter states. “Throughout the process, I will place myself in a meditative and contemplative state and will focus my mind on diminishing my doubts and reinforcing my confidence in my ability to make decisions that affect my body.”
During the abortion, the third and fifth tenets of TST are to be recited. They state, “One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone,” and “Beliefs should conform to one’s best scientific understanding of the world. One should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit one’s beliefs.”
Upon completion of the abortion, the mother of the now-dead son or daughter is to declare, “By my body, my blood; by my will it is done.”
The organization says that because the abortive act is now consequently linked to the performance of a religious ritual, any state laws and regulations that serve to be a “burden” on the woman’s religious exercise and “substantially interfere with … [those] practices” would violate the federal RFRA.
“Burdens” would include waiting periods, required pre-abortion counseling, the issuance of materials on abortion, sonograms, listening to the child’s heartbeat or requiring that the infant be buried or cremated.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed in 1993 by Congress and signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton, states that “[g]overnment shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.” It includes two exceptions: when a the regulation is “in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest” and the “least restrictive means” is used to accomplish that interest.
It is the same law that the US Supreme Court cited in stating that the popular craft chain Hobby Lobby had a right to be exempted from providing insurance coverage for certain contraceptives that it considers to be abortifacients.
“The government has failed to show that the contraceptive mandate is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest,” the court held in a 5-4 decision in 2014.
The Satanic Temple believes that since it has now created a “religious ritual” to accompany the performance of an abortion, it has similarly a means to be exempted from state regulations on abortion procedures.
It released a video on Wednesday explaining its strategy on the matter.
“This law generally prohibits the government from prohibits the government from interfering with a person’s free exercise of religion, which includes the performance of rituals,” the video states. “As an expression of our deeply held beliefs, The Satanic Temple has created a religious ritual that involves terminating an unwanted pregnancy during the first trimester.”
“The Satanic Temple proudly announces to all of its followers that within the states that have enacted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, religiously performed abortions are exempt from legal requirements that are not medically necessary,” it continues. “The Satanic Temple will do all it can to be sure that states protect the religious rights of our members to obtain first trimester abortions on demand.”
The video and the group’s website both contain the slogan “Thyself is thy master.”
As previously reported, The Satanic Temple has twice filed suit in an attempt to claim that the RFRA applies to its “religious beliefs” surrounding abortion.
In June, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit against the State of Missouri, as an anonymous woman had sued to challenge the state’s informed consent and waiting period laws, stating that they have the “purpose to cause her guilt for believing The Satanic Tenets and not believing the Missouri Tenets.”
She makes “no argument … that the informed-consent law is anything other than ‘neutral’ and ‘generally applicable,’” wrote Judge David Stras, appointed to the bench by President Donald Trump.
He added, “According to Doe, the Satanic Temple has both ‘politically aware Satanists’ and ‘secularists and advocates for individual liberty’ among its members. Arguably, her own description raises the possibility that her beliefs about abortion may be political, not religious.”
The Satanic Temple seems to have consequently angled its strategy to ensure that its acts are religious in nature and not merely political.
While TST differs from LeVayan Satanism, established in the 1960s by Anton LeVey, it focuses on “individual sovereignty” and “the rejection of tryrannical authority.”
In the documentary “Hell’s Bells: The Power and Spirit of Popular Music,” Christian filmmaker Eric Holmberg discussed the practice of Satanism and its central theme of “Do what thou wilt.” He asserted that many people follow the principles of Satanism without realizing it.
“Call yourself a humanist, a white witch, a liberal Christian if you must, but ultimately, as LaVey was fond of saying, you’re just a Satanist in evening clothes dressed up to hide your true nature,” Holmberg explained. “Contrary to popular opinion, the essence of being Satanic is simply being interested in what you or other people believe about something, rather than what God knows and has commanded.”
1 John 3:8 reads, “He that committeth sin is of the devil, for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.”