The Religious Right celebrated a victory in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's disastrous decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, but fundamentalists may soon change their tune if a humanistic group successfully uses its religious beliefs to undo a restrictive new abortion law.
You may remember the Satanic Temple from the fiasco over holiday displays at the State Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla., last year. Any group is supposed to be permitted to put up a display, but the Temple was told it couldn’t participate because its diorama was “offensive.” With help from Americans United, however, the Temple was eventually able to erect its display, which depicted an angel falling into flames.
Now it seems the Temple has another brewing legal fight on its hands. In September, Missouri passed a law that requires a woman seeking an abortion to wait 72 hours after she receives advice/counseling before undergoing the procedure. The old waiting period was 24 hours; the new waiting time is among the longest in the nation.
A member of the Temple, identified only as “Mary” for the time being, will reportedly challenge the new waiting period. While she could argue that the law will harm women, she took another route: She feels the waiting period violates her religious beliefs.
Raw Story reported that Mary said the law places an “unnecessary burden” on her religious beliefs because it takes away her control over her own body.
“The waiting period interferes with the inviolability of my body and thereby imposes an unwanted and substantial burden on my sincerely held religious beliefs,” she said.
(For the record, Temple members don’t literally worship Satan. The Temple is essentially a humanistic group that uses Satan as a symbol for anyone who challenges religious authority or established dogma.)
As for Mary, she must drive several hundred miles to St. Louis since Missouri’s only abortion provider is there. Lucien Greaves, head of the Satanic Temple, said Mary will ask the clinic for an exemption based on her religious beliefs. If she is denied, the Temple will explore its legal options, Greaves said.
This is yet another example of the chaos the high court created with Hobby Lobby. Virtually anyone can find a way to challenge nearly any law on religious grounds, and the high court flung the door wide open for such challenges to succeed when it ruled that secular, for-profit corporations have a right not to provide their employees with access to free birth control. Thanks to this extremely broad interpretation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a 1993 federal law that was intended to protect minorities, it is possible that many laws could be cast aside because they offend someone’s religious beliefs.
As for Mary’s case, it’s hard to say whether or not she will succeed if she goes to court. Hobby Lobby only applies to federal RFRA cases and Mary is challenging a state law. In 1997, the Supreme Court said the federal RFRA does not apply to the states. Missouri has its own RFRA and it is unknown how courts will interpret it in regard to Mary’s challenge.
It was no surprise that fundamentalists saw Hobby Lobby as a victory for Christians, but they may soon learn that RFRAs can be used to overturn laws they like, too. Perhaps if everyone realizes that the high court’s interpretation of RFRA is not good for anyone, Hobby Lobby will be overturned.