Satanic Temple’s Disgusting ‘Sam Alito’ Abortion Facility Isn’t a Legitimate ‘Exercise of Religion’
As if touting religious ceremonies to kill unborn children wasn’t enough, The Satanic Temple – a nontheistic organization intentionally characterizing itself as religious – has escalated its rhetoric by naming a new chemical abortion facility in New Mexico after a U.S. Supreme Court justice the group apparently wishes were dead.
A combination of tasteless and threatening, the newly established "Sam Alito’s Mom’s Satanic Abortion Clinic" is advertised as purveying chemical abortions by mail, with its website featuring a cartoon suggesting that Justice Samuel Alito’s mother should have aborted him. (Alito wrote the majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization finding no right to abortion in the Constitution.)
This sinister charade is also an assault on religious freedom. The Satanic Temple threatens everyone’s religious liberty protections with its ill-advised plan linking its pro-abortion propaganda with alleged religious practices.
Despite its name, The Satanic Temple doesn’t "believe in the existence of Satan or the supernatural," as its website explains. Rather than exalting anything divine, it exalts the self with its saying, "Thyself is Thy Master." (The King James English makes the beliefs sound more theological.)
The Satanic Temple disdains those who believe in God, religion and the supernatural, taunting those believers with its Satanic imagery. The organization’s approach to religious freedom mirrors its approach to religion: It doesn’t actually support religious freedom for anyone but will invoke religious freedom for itself if it can denigrate that same freedom in the process.
The Satanic Temple also strongly supports abortion, thus the reason for its announcement that its affiliate, TST Health, would establish the New Mexico "telehealth" facility that "will provide medication for safe abortions through the mail for members and for those who wish to perform TST’s Abortion Ritual," part of which includes the woman reciting the "Personal Affirmation": "By my body, my blood, By my will it is done."
This facility faces numerous obstacles. Federal law currently prohibits the mailing of abortifacients. Abortion drugs have side effects that harm women – especially when the women and girls taking them do so via "telehealth" and without proper medical evaluation. Also, there is now a major dispute over whether the Food and Drug Administration properly approved the use of these drugs as abortifacients.
In anticipation of these legal obstacles, The Satanic Temple will likely seek "religious" exemptions so it can dispense abortifacients through the mail. But that effort will face significant hurdles.
First, the Supreme Court has interpreted the free exercise clause to mean that religious adherents cannot get exemptions from laws that are neutral on their face about religion and that apply generally to all. It would be difficult to win a lawsuit seeking a religious exemption from the federal law that prohibits sending abortifacients through the mail.
If The Satanic Temple seeks an exemption under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, it is still likely to fail. Under this statute, the government can burden one’s religious exercise when it has a compelling state interest implemented in the least restrictive way. The government undoubtedly has a compelling interest in protecting innocent human life from destruction.
Religious liberty laws like RFRA are not automatic "get out of jail free" cards. Aztec or Molech worshippers do not escape criminal punishment for homicide just because their religious beliefs require human sacrifice. Similarly, The Satanic Temple’s exemption efforts would fare no better.
The Satanic Temple may additionally argue that laws protecting unborn life violate the establishment clause because they are allegedly based on religious doctrine. But the Supreme Court in 1980 correctly ruled that a law does not violate the establishment clause simply because it coincides with the beliefs of a religious group. If that were not so, then laws against burglary and shoplifting would be unconstitutional because they match the Ten Commandments’ "Thou shalt not steal."
A third problem nags The Satanic Temple: Does it hold sincere religious beliefs, or did it adopt them just to mock and jeer religious traditionalists? It is uncommon in religious-liberty litigation for questions to arise about the sincerity of the group’s religious beliefs. But The Satanic Temple’s own account of its tenets, especially its rejection of all things supernatural, creates a real question whether the group’s beliefs are just secular beliefs dressed up in Satanic imagery to scorn and taunt religious people.
For example, The Satanic Temple is an odd name for a supposed "religious" group that doesn’t believe in Satan or anything supernatural. The group mocks religious pro-life people by calling its proposed facility "Sam Alito’s Mom’s Satanic Abortion Clinic." The group is even selling T-shirts with a cartoon of Justice Alito’s mother saying, "If only abortion was legal when I was pregnant," implying that Mrs. Alito would have aborted her son in 1950 if abortion had been legal, so he would not have grown up to write the decision overturning Roe v. Wade. The U.S. Constitution protects religious beliefs that are unpopular, bizarre or offensive, but it doesn’t protect pretextual ones.
The Satanic Temple should drop this religious pretense and just advocate its pro-abortion views. The group’s masquerade as a religious group cloaks its disdain for religion and its efforts to disrupt legal protections for religious believers. That erodes the First Amendment rights that protect us all.