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Members of the cheeky, irreverent Satanic Temple organization based in Salem, Massachusetts (yes, that Salem) are nothing like the creepy, devil-worshipping Satanists of old. Their new ad campaign illustrates that.
For starters, Tempe adherents don’t believe in divinities of any kind, good or evil, gods or devils — or even moley witches, for that matter. In fact, they’re a political activist group created mainly to stick a thumb in the eye of American political and religious hypocrites who promote self-serving and restrictive bias over the facts of science.
The formal mission of the group is “To Encourage Benevolence And Empathy, Reject Tyrannical Authority, Advocate Practical Common Sense, Oppose Injustice, And Undertake Noble Pursuits.”
The Temple’s latest irreverence is a billboard advertising campaign telling people that, just by reciting the group’s fundamental tenets, women can ignore medically unnecessary but legally mandated obstacles to obtaining abortions in states with draconian anti-abortion laws.
The billboard ad now displaying in North Miami Beach, Florida, depicts two women drinking Cokes and discussing the Satanic Temple’s “religious abortion ritual,” which purportedly allows members of the religious organization to circumvent many state abortion restrictions by citing their deeply held religious beliefs.
Why is an ad paid for by a Massachusetts-based group on display in Florida, and clearly viewable from I-95? Because anyone who wants to terminate a pregnancy in Florida is required to have an ultrasound and undergo coercive pre-procedure counseling and other constraints on liberty, and the Satanists contend that a religious exemption can be cited to skirt those mandates.
Many of the most restrictive state abortion laws are medically unnecessary but were passed into law by devout Christian lawmakers to try and so shame, guilt and greatly inconvenience women seeking abortions that they abandon the idea.
The quasi-tongue-in-cheek “religious abortion ritual” introduced in the billboard ad, which debuted in August, was created to “provide feelings of comfort in a trying time” to women seeking to end pregnancies in the face of significant legal hurdles, Tempe officials explained, according to an article in the independent Miami New Times.
Temple spokesman Sydney Goodwin said the organization believes in seven fundamental tenets that reflect how members’ should ideally behave and outline essential beliefs of the organization. Tenets III and VI are key to averting abortion restrictions.
Tenet III assert that “a person’s body is subject only to their own will,” and Tenet VI states that Satanist’s beliefs should “conform to their best scientific understanding of the world.”
Regarding the ritual, Goodwin explains:
“[B]y performing the ritual, Satanists can proclaim their right to have a medically safe abortion without restriction under the federal Religious Freedoms Restoration Act, which prohibits any government agency from infringing on someone practicing their religion. That means that in states such as Florida, a Satanist can claim religious privilege and be exempt from those requirements, according to the Satanic Temple.”
Goodwin says if any Satanist performs the ritual but is still denied an abortion under arbitrary regulatory restrictions of a state, the Temple would “take the state to court on behalf of that member.” The plaintiff wouldn’t even need to be a member of a local Tempe chapter, he added.
“As far as sincerity is concerned, asserting that you’re a member of the Temple and that the seven tenets is your belief is sufficient enough, and the court should respect that,” Goodwin says.
The Miami New Times described the Satanic Temple’s belief system:
“Modern Satanism, popularized by the Church of Satan after its founding in 1966, is not so much a religion based on worship as it is a philosophy based on secularism and a rejection of Christianity, spiritualism, and superstition. The Satanic Temple, founded in 2013, does not actually venerate Satan as a god — its members don’t even believe Satan is real. Instead, members of the temple think of Satan as a literary figure who represents rebellion and independence, and they act as social advocates for causes such as reproductive rights.”
Temple members have also successfully petitioned local elected boards, including in Florida, to present secular invocations, like this one, here, in 2016, among other activist initiatives, including publicly confronting hate groups, fighting for abolition of corporal punishment in public schools, and seeking equal representation when religious displays (like The Ten Commandments) are placed on public property.
The Temple’s current ad campaign promotes the message that what’s good for the goose, so to speak, is good for the gander. In other words, if fundamentalist Christian bakers can refuse to design a cake for a same-sex couple’s wedding because it offends their deeply held biblical beliefs (even though equal treatment under the law is an American legal tradition), then Satanists seeking abortions can ignore a state’s anti-abortion laws that go against patients’ deeply held beliefs in personal autonomy and sovereignty, and in the necessity of adhering to science over fantasy.
You could say the Temple’s ethos concerning injustice is “devil may care.”