“So, if paganism/" class=" decorated-link" target="_blank">the old gods were devils, then devils really couldn’t be all that bad, could they? In other words, instead of making pagan worship abhorrent, the church simply made devil worship an ordinary, almost respectable, part of life.” –Daniel Quinn
The Great Nation of Texas is a frightening place to live right now, y’all.
Abortion after six weeks of pregnancy is officially illegal here, and our twisted lawmakers managed to skirt the Constitution by deputizing private citizens: Anyone can sue anyone else for attempting to obtain an abortion, or for aiding and abetting the termination of a pregnancy in any way. (In response, Lyft and Uber have both established legal funds to protect their drivers from anti-abortion lawsuits, and Lyft donated $1 million to Planned Parenthood.)
On the bright side, though, permits are no longer required to carry handguns in Texas, so people might be less likely to sue each other now that we’re all free to pack heat.
Our governor, who is truly a monster, issued an executive order banning mask mandates in public schools, because conservatives only care about children before they’re born: Once they’re out of the womb, it’s straight into Thunderdome. We’ve also got the most oppressive voting laws in the US, which are only going to get worse as Republicans find creative new ways to stay in office against the will of the people.
And it’s all a test run. That’s what scares me more than anything else. The cannibal Christians in charge here are just seeing what they can get away with before launching even more draconian and discriminatory legislation.
Which is why, as a queer Texan who practices a non-Abrahamic religion and can’t help feeling like my civil liberties are next on the chopping block, I freaked the fuck out and joined the Satanic Temple.
I got the idea from a woman in a local Pagan Facebook group, who posted the Welcome email she’d received from the Satanic Temple and was like, “Since the State won’t respect my bodily autonomy, I guess I have no choice but to join the dark side.” I couldn’t disagree with her sentiment and followed suit, hopping onto the Temple’s website and signing myself up.
Body inviobility is one of the tenets of the Satanic Temple (usually abbreviated to TST), and as such, reproductive freedom is considered a fundamental right. Texas law is set up in a way that TST can’t sue the state over its anti-abortion measures, but the Temple can seek an exemption on behalf of any individual member who wishes to undergo a “Satanic Abortion Ritual,” on the grounds that the current law restricts the free exercise of religion in violation of the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act. If an exemption is not granted, TST can pursue legal action.
TST has also petitioned the Food and Drug Administration for unrestricted access to abortifacients under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was originally created to allow Indigenous peoples the use of peyote in religious rituals. Since reproductive freedom is sacred as per TST tenets, the organization reasons that members should be able to obtain abortive medications without government intervention. All of which I can get behind.
It was only after I’d splurged on a membership card (and a fetching hat) that I stopped for a moment and was like, “Hey there, me. Maybe we take some time to really think about what we’ve just done?” At which point my hyperfocus kicked in, so I spent the entire Labor Day weekend hunched in front of my laptop, learning everything I could about TST.
It was a fun ride.
The Satanic Temple was founded in 2013 by Lucien Greaves and Malcolm Jarry, as a non-theistic organization with the mission to “encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense, oppose injustice, and undertake noble pursuits.” TST first appeared publically to support a Florida law that allowed student-led prayers at school assemblies — since the law didn’t specify a particular religion, Temple members showed up to express elation that their children could now openly pray to Satan in school.
Since then, TST has initiated a number of campaigns to champion the continued separation of Church and State, along with some bemusing publicity stunts, although reception has been mixed. I found a lot of horizontal hostility within the greater Satanic community, with some Satanists confusing and/or conflating TST’s absolutist stance on the First Amendment with crypto-fascism. TST has also not had much success in previous legal challenges, leading some to condemn the Temple’s efforts as ill-conceived and incompetent.
Outside of Satanism, I’ve seen the argument that TST is a “fake” religion and shouldn’t be taken seriously, although this doesn’t carry much weight with me. I mean, I’m Discordian: My entire personal practice is based on a fake religion. However, I’ve also seen people suggest that since abortion is permissible within Judaism and Islam, TST should step aside and let those religions lead the fight for reproductive rights, which is… an incredibly privileged thing to say. Especially considering that antisemitic incidents are on the rise in Texas.
This is not middle school dodgeball, y’all. Putting the focus on who gets to be team captain and who gets picked last is possibly not the most effective battle strategy.
Even though the Satanic Temple’s tenets are compatible with the Unitarian Principles I normally adhere to, I probably won’t ever identify as a Satanist. But I did go ahead and submit a membership application to the TST Houston Chapter, and for now, at least, my affiliation with the national organization makes me feel a fraction safer than I did a few days ago.
Plus, when my own freedoms come under attack at some point in the disturbingly near future, I’ll want as much back-up as I can muster. If TST is going to actively defend my right to exist, then at this moment, I am more than happy to support them right back.