I have argued that the Satanic Temple’s claims that abortion restrictions are expressions of religious values to be correct, though I think the restrictions should still stand. Last year the Satanic Temple challenged Texas’ abortion restrictions on religious liberty grounds. The argument goes that Congress and the States may not restrict religious liberty, and abortion is a Satanic, religious practice: ergo, restricting abortion is a restriction on religious liberty. With the news that Roe v. Wade may be overturned, this argument has suddenly gained mainstream appeal.
I was happy to see Josh Blackman over at Reason explain why this approach to rolling back abortion restrictions is unlikely to succeed.
The Satanic Temple is at it again, and has unveiled a new abortion ritual that, in their view, “sanctifies the abortion process by instilling confidence and protecting bodily rights when undergoing the safe and scientific procedure.” The Satanic Temple is really a Objectivist-libertarian organization masquerading as a religious group in order to provocatively promote their vision of individual human autonomy. Their goal in this ritual is to invoke religious freedom protections against state obstructions to abortion. The Satanist Temple had previously argued that Missouri’s abortion restrictions were the imposition of Christian values on non-Christians, and therefore violated the separation of church and state. I addressed the subject at the time and agreed with the Satanist claim on the merits, though not the legitimacy of the practice. Why? A society cannot be organized with shared values that are morally or religiously neutral because there are no such values. The attempt at a secular American has only worked because of the preponderance of shared values, which is now unraveling.
The Satanist Temple’s approach to this via claims of religious liberty will again bear this out. Religious liberty in any society only works if that religion’s practice does not violate the society’s understanding of what is right and what are rights, and a secular society has to pretend that these values that transcend religious liberty are morally neutral. That is where the effectiveness of the Satanist’s strategy will be evident – the assertion that abortion restrictions trump the Satanic religious value of bodily autonomy cannot stand on a claim of moral or religious neutrality. Like with the Missouri cases in past years, the Satanists may fail in court, but the exposed fissures in American culture are widening and eventually some political body will rule a law constitutionally illegitimate because of the values it expresses. American culture and laws were premised on Christian values in many ways (e.g. respect for the life of the unborn), but our constitutional framework is atheistic (no laws allowed that establish religion); the less Christian the American people become, the greater the tension will grow between laws that enact Christian values and their constitutional legitimacy.
The Missouri Supreme Court will be hearing a case on whether the state’s abortion laws violate the religious rights of a woman who is a member of the Satanic Temple. The Satanic Temple is an activist and religious organization started in 2012 that employs Satanic imagery to bring attention to its actions. Similar to the Church of Satan, the Satanic Temple is atheistic and rejects any notion of the supernatural, including the idea of a devil. Its beliefs are very similar to that of Ayn Rand’s Objectivism…