Satanists use Hobby Lobby decision to play devil's advocate
NEW YORK (ABC News) - A group of Satanists are using the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision to promote their own political initiatives -- which are the polar opposite of the Christian craft store giant.
The Supreme Court ruling allows Hobby Lobby to opt out of providing contraceptives to employees on the basis of their religious beliefs. Now, The Satanic Temple plans to cite the verdict as justification for the protection of their own beliefs.
The Satanic Temple, a religious group based in New York but with followers across the country, is using the ruling to fight informed consent laws which mandate that women considering abortions must be given state-approved literature about the procedure.
Where they exist, informed consent laws differ by state, with some requiring women to watch videos or read information of varying amounts of time before scheduling their procedures.
"We should only have to review medical or scientific information based solely on fact and not politicized," said Jex Blackmore, the head of the Detroit chapter of The Satanic Temple. "Some of that state-drafted information is medical in nature [but] it's just that it's written in a very biased format."
The group announced the initiative last week and have provided a form letter intended to enable women to opt-out of receiving the pamphlets distributed under the informed consent laws. They contend that the informed consent pamphlets run counter to their religious beliefs. Women are able to print off the opt-out form, fill it out and hand it to their doctor. If the doctor still gives them the state-mandated forms in spite of the letter, The Satanic Temple says it will file a lawsuit on their behalf.
Blackmore said they have not filed any such suits since the initiative was launched.
"It’s an opening statement, as it were," W. James MacNaughton, The Satanic Temple's attorney, told ABC. "It’s a statement from the patient to the physician and to the world at large that 'here’s my position, here's what i believe'. actually going to court and picking the test case actually depends on the facts. At this stage, we don't know who that will be."
The Satanic Temple remains a mystery to many but their spokesman Lucien Greaves told ABC News that they have gained 10,000 members in the past year and a half. They gained notoriety earlier this year when they pushed for a 7-foot Satanic statue to be approved to stand alongside a 10 Commandments monument at the Oklahoma State Capital. The statue is under construction.
Cardozo School of Law professor Marci Hamilton, who has written extensively about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), said that The Satanic Temple's plan to use the Hobby Lobby ruling as the basis for their initiative could be effective if and when they bring a lawsuit to the courts.
"This was inevitable," Hamilton told ABC News. "This is following exactly on that line of thinking that a regulation that impedes the ability of the believer to practice that religion is going to be challenged."
She said that an important distinction to keep in mind is that both the Hobby Lobby decision and The Satanic Temple's initiative both rely on RFRA, which helps individuals fight laws that counter their religious beliefs, as opposed to the First Amendment of the Constitution.
RFRA was passed in 1993 and adds more protections than the Constitution lays out for religious freedom. A number of legal experts, including Hamilton, believe RFRA is unconstitutional. In her view, Hamilton believes RFRA caused "this wave of extreme religious liberty that is untethered from the constitution."
"For those of us who have been working on RFRA issues for two decades... inevitably it was going to be groups that raised claims that made either ordinary Americans or the far right find uncomfortable," Hamilton said.
When it comes to fighting any lawsuits that The Satanic Temple brings forward regarding informed consent laws, it appears that the devil is truly in the details.
"It really puts the conservative Christians and the anti-contraceptive Catholics in a bind: They're going to have to argue that a religious group should lose a RFRA claim that is on par with the Hobby Lobby claim," Hamilton said.
"The courts cant pick and choose between beliefs."