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Salem-based Satanic Temple challenges Texas abortion law, arguing religious freedom

Lucien Greaves, cofounder of The Satanic Temple.
Lucien Greaves, cofounder of The Satanic Temple.The Satanic Temple

The Salem-based Satanic Temple is joining the opposition to Texas’ new abortion measure, claiming its members qualify for an exemption to the law as a faith-based organization.

The Temple asserts that its members should be allowed to take medication that induces abortions within 24 weeks of pregnancy as an expression of religious freedom.

Texas’ abortion law, which went into effect on Sept. 1 after the Supreme Court declined to step in, bans abortions after a heartbeat is detected, which is usually about six weeks after conception and before many women know they are pregnant.

“While legal scholars wring their hands over Texas lawmakers attack on Roe v. Wade, Satanists are using creative approach to allow women in Texas access to abortions: religious freedom,” the group said in a statement.

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A lawyer for the group, which is an official, tax-exempt religion, filed a letter with the Food and Drug Administration last week arguing its members in Texas should be able to access abortion medications mifepristone and misoprostol without being subject to its regulations.

The law, which includes a provision that allows individuals to sue anyone who they believe has performed the procedure after six weeks or who “aids and abets” it, has sparked a range of attempts to undermine it, with the Justice Department saying it is exploring ways to challenge the law and Uber and Lyft pledging to cover the legal fees of drivers who may be sued under the bill.

The Satanic Temple, which was founded in 2013, does not have ties to the Church of Satan, and its website notes the two are often confused. The Temple is “resolutely non-theistic” and “does not endorse supernatural (or “supernormal”) explanations,” its website states. Its mission is “to encourage benevolence and empathy, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense, oppose injustice, and undertake noble pursuits,” according to its website.

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The Temple cited the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, under which Native Americans can access peyote for their religious rituals, in claiming the group should have access to abortion medications for religious purposes.

“TST’s membership uses these products in a sacramental setting,” the letter states, adding that the “Satanic Abortion Ritual is a sacrament which surrounds and includes the abortive act.”

“I am sure Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton—who famously spends a good deal of his time composing press releases about Religious Liberty issues in other states—will be proud to see that Texas’s robust Religious Liberty laws, which he so vociferously champions, will prevent future Abortion Rituals from being interrupted by superfluous government restrictions meant only to shame and harass those seeking an abortion,” Lucien Greaves, a spokesman and co-founder of The Satanic Temple, said in a statement.

Satanists believe bodily autonomy is “sacrosanct,” Greaves added.

“The battle for abortion rights is largely a battle of competing religious viewpoints, and our viewpoint that the nonviable fetus is part of the impregnated host is fortunately protected under Religious Liberty,” the statement said.

The group has taken action before when it comes to state laws governing abortion.

In 2019, the Temple sued Missouri over its law requiring women who seek an abortion to receive a pamphlet that states: “The life of each human being begins at conception. Abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being.” In June 2020, an appeals court dismissed the lawsuit.

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The group then appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.

“While we are disappointed that the Supreme Court has passed on our case, we are nonetheless still empowered to demand that states honor Satanists’ religious rights when receiving reproductive care,” the Temple’s website states. “This lawsuit’s progress of demonstrating the legal merits of our case is just one step in our fight to obtain reproductive care in accordance with our Tenets.”



Amanda Kaufman can be reached at amanda.kaufman@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandakauf1.