For more than half of a century, abortion rights have stood as one of the most polarizing issues in America’s political discourse. In some sense, the positions each respective side takes create an innately non-linear argument as being pro-life nor pro-choice are mutually exclusive. However, what abortion does enable as a political force is a means to pathologically rile up the masses deeper into existing partisan lines. As such, in an effort to put its side’s position forward, pro-life and pro-choice advocates alike each frame the issue of abortion on stark moral grounds. As pro-abortion advocates continue their outrage following the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the official decision of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in June of last year, the narrative they have crafted in opposition to the leaked Supreme Court case is one in which they are victims against an oppressive state that they seek to vilify to conjure support for their cause.

However, the latest endeavor in overturning Dobbs is certain to undermine any semblance of moral integrity that pro-abortion advocates hold. The newest ally for their cause is none other than The Satanic Temple, which has officially unveiled its intent to open what they describe as the “world’s first religious abortion clinic” in New Mexico that will offer ritualistic abortions. Summarizing the objectivity of this mission rather succinctly, The Satanic Temple will name the facility The Samuel Alito Mom’s Satanic Abortion Clinic in a declaration that lacks as much class as it does subtlety.

Under its wing of TST Health, The Satanic Temple embarks upon a mission to claim a first amendment right to abortion by explicitly employing it as a ritual of worship within its religious tenets  that would seemingly undermine the precedent set forth by Dobbs. As stated by the temple’s dogma, “One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone” — and the fifth — “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.”

However, one does not need to possess more than a neophytic understanding of constitutional law to know that first amendment protections of freedom of religious exercise are not extended to a premise such as that which The Satanic Temple puts forth. In 1990, The Supreme Court Of The United States examined this very issue in the case of Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith. In a 6-3 decision from the Rehnquist era court in which each of the dissenting Associate Justices also joined parts of Sandra Day O’Connor’s concurrent opinion to the majority opinion written by Antonin Scalia, the SCOTUS held that first amendment protections do not extend to neutral laws made in the interest of preserving an underlying public interest.

Employment Division v. Smith reached the Supreme Court after an employee who was fired for violating a drug policy by their employer sought unemployment benefits from the State of Oregon. Given the basis of their termination, the unemployment claim was denied. However, the claimant sought to evoke his first amendment right because the reason he was fired was due to testing positive for peyote they used as part of a sacramental ritual as a Native American. The court held that Oregon’s statute making possession of peyote as a controlled substance illegal was not a law that was aimed solely at inhibiting its use in religious sacraments. Given what the court acknowledge as Oregon’s compelling interest to codify such a statute, the constitutional implications of the law that were the basis of the unemployment division’s denial of Smith’s claim did not violate a first amendment right.

Whether American constitutional jurisprudence was relying on precedent set forth by Roe v. Wade or Dobbs is seemingly irrelevant as the SCOTUS recognizes abortion laws as a compelling interest of the state in either decision. As such, laws which are made in order to set limitations or outright ban abortions by states are not made in the interest of seeking out a particular religion to deny its right to free exercise. On that simple basis, the constitutionality of The Temple of Satan’s legal challenge to restrictive abortion laws on first amendment grounds looks to be a futile endeavor on its face.

This is not the first legal challenge that The Satanic Temple has taken against abortion bans in different states nation wide. The temple has also made legal challenges on first amendment grounds in Indiana and Florida since Dobbs was decided and had previously made similar challenges in 18 different states including Texas in the Roe v. Wade era to no avail. To illustrate how the Satanic Temple isn’t being unfairly targeted by abortion bans, other petitioners have filed similar claims on different religious grounds, including a Florida-based synagogue. The lawsuit filed by the Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor of Boynton Beach that assets the state’s prohibition on abortions after 15 weeks violates the right to religious freedoms for Jews. “As such, the act prohibits Jewish women from practicing their faith free of government intrusion and this violates their privacy rights and religious freedom,” says the lawsuit, filed in Leon County Circuit Court.

It should be noted that The Satanic Temple is not The Church of Satan started by Anton LaVey that came into prominence during the late 1960s following the codification of the Satanic Bible. LaVey’s efforts to push Satanism into the mainstream law the birth of several different denominational temples and churches. Perhaps most notably, The Temple of Set was one of the first offshoots of LaVey’s church. The Temple of Set was founded in 1975, nine years after LaVey founded The Church of Satan, by Michael Aquino. Aside from formulating Setianism, Aquino is perhaps best known for his role in the CIA’s MKUltra program as a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army who specialized in psychologically welfare.

Although LaVey would die in 1997 and Aquino would die in 2020, the resurgence of Satanism in the mainstream has marched forward. The Satanic Temple has risen to the forefront of this pervasive movement after being founded by Lucien Greaves and Malcom Jarry in 2012, opening its official headquarters in a repurposed funeral home in the apropos location of Salem, Massachusetts in 2016. Since its founding, The Temple of Satanic has taken efforts to make its presence known nationwide. In 2022, The Temple of Satan held its inaugural SatanCon festival in Scottsdale, Arizona. The Satanic Temple will be holding SatanCon 2023 in Boston from April 28th – 30th, nearby its Salem headquarters. Attendees to SatanCon will of course be required to provide proof of their COVID-19 vaccination status.

Since the French occultist Éliphas Lévi first illustrated the deity Baphomet in his 1856 work Dogma and Ritual of High Magic, the Sabbatic goat has become the inseparable symbol of Satanism despite the author’s intent otherwise. Lévi was simply elucidating previous claims Baphomet was a deity worshipped by the Knights Templar as referenced in trial documents from the inquisitions against the crusader order going back to 1307. The earliest textual artifact using the name Baphomet can be traced back to the First Crusade from a 1098 letter written by French crusader Anselm of Ribemont recounting the Siege of Antioch.

The original illustration of Baphomet from Dogma and Ritual of High Magic by Eliphas Levi (1856).

Since Lévi re-introduced Baphomet to modernity, it has become the basis of the official sigil of The Church of Satan and an icon of Satanism generally. Its representation of Hermetic principles of correspondence, the Kabbalistic principle of the duality of masculinity and feminity, and a literal embodiment of the addage “as above so below” illustrates the complexity of the symbol. The latest chapter of that complex history looks to utilize secular humanism as the vehicle for the expansion of Satanic dogma.

While The Satanic Temple has previously cited its first amendment rights successfully, its hubris overlooks the material reality of constitutional precedent surrounding abortion law. While their battle to promote ritualistic abortion will be waged against the state in various courts of law, The Satanic Temple’s latest crusade to use abortion rights as political vehicle looks to be a bridge too far compared to previous efforts.

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