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Now that a week has passed since we (The Satanic Temple) announced our Right To Accurate Medical Information initiative -- an exemption from anti-abortion “informed consent” laws -- we are in a position of sufficient time-passed to appraise the initial public reaction and media response. By and large, the response has been impressively positive, with many outlets simply reporting the facts of our campaign, and various publications, such as Bust Magazine, covering the initiative in an unequivocally positive light.

With the lingering sense of public outrage over the Supreme Court’s ill-conceived Hobby Lobby ruling, it is little wonder that our proposed exemption enjoyed a minor national news trend when announced in a press release headlined with:

“Satanists Leverage Hobby Lobby Ruling In Support of Pro-Choice Initiative”

Predictably, this led to some typical skeptical commentary from some of the usual suspects suggesting that TST is “merely” engaging in a PR ploy, a scheme designed to garner media attention. It’s a bizarre criticism that makes little sense to me, as spokesperson for TST, and my reply to various journalists who have questioned our attention-getting tactics has been consistent: Of course we want to bring attention to this campaign. The exemption letter that our counsel has drawn up is simply worthless if nobody uses it. Naturally, nobody can utilize the letter if they are not aware of it. So, yes, we unashamedly seek maximum attention for our Right To Accurate Medical Information initiative, and we genuinely hope that women in the unenviable position of needing an abortion in a state where “informed consent” laws exist will use the letter as an opt-out from the indignity of compulsory state-mandated misinformation.

The fact is, our foundational tenet stating that “the body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone”, as well as our tenet which posits that our “beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world”, and “we should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs,” are direct expressions of our fundamental religious values -- deeply-held beliefs shared by many. The fact that we reject supernaturalism and don’t promote the idea of a personal Satan has led some to insist that we are not, in fact, a religion -- to which we counter that it is simply unthinkable to legally privilege deeply-held beliefs that are rooted in superstition over those that are not. As stated on our website’s FAQ:

Are we supposed to believe that those who pledge submission to an ethereal supernatural deity hold to their values more deeply than we? Are we supposed to concede that only the superstitious are proper recipients of religious exemption and privilege? In fact, Satanism provides us all that a religion should, without a compulsory attachment to untenable items of faith-based belief: It provides a narrative structure by which we contextualize our lives and works. It provides a body of symbolism and religious practice — a sense of identity, culture, community, and shared values.

There has been some genuine debate among legal scholars regarding the future of our proposed exemption, and how it may hold up in Court (notable among them is Irin Carmon’s analysis on MSNBC’s All In With Chris Hayes). There have also -- perhaps inevitably -- been some frustratingly ignorant and uninformed commentary from those who either failed to familiarize themselves with our initiative, the meaning of “informed consent” laws, or both. Notable among those was Ira Lupu, a law professor at George Washington University, who expressed confusion to The Atlantic in stating, "These [informed consent] laws create obligations for doctors to inform, not obligations for women to listen or read," thus adjudging our exemption letter “legally meaningless”. The inanity of the comment is staggering, the equivalent of saying, “women aren’t obligated to receive the informed consent materials, they’re only required to have it given to them.” In fact, if professor Lupu had bothered to learn about Informed Consent materials before commenting, one finds that women are indeed obligated listen to and/or read them, and sign acknowledgment confirming as much. (The Atlantic also confronted the question of whether or not it is superstition that makes a set of deeply-held beliefs a religion with an unequivocal “yes”, openly declaring TST non-Satanic. They further erroneously, and absurdly, stated us as having only a membership of 20, even as we number about 10 thousand, with, incidentally, 20 chapter houses in the works nationwide. When confronted with these errors, as well as simple questions as to why the author chose not to speak to our own legal counsel regarding the proposed exemption, editor David Graham declared it all to be a matter of “opinion”, not requiring amendment, and set about on his Twitter feed announcing, with juvenile self-congratulatory glee, that he was boldly engaged in battle with “the Dark Lord’s followers.”)

Another amazingly idiotic quote was included in a piece posted by the Religion News Service, this time by one Cole Durham, a law professor at Brigham Young University, who stated, “It is not altogether clear to me that even if sincere, their [TST’s] beliefs are in fact religious, as opposed to merely philosophical.” The comment wouldn’t be so bad if he had bothered to qualify his delineation between the two (and demonstrated any understanding of our own beliefs and positions), but then he carried on into the realm of unalloyed stupidity: “informed consent laws are general and neutral laws which do not target any specific religion, and thus would override constitutional free exercise claims.” It beggars the imagination to conceive of an actual law professor who believes that exemptions can only be invoked if and when a law is directly and willfully discriminatory against a specific religion. One wonders if Cole Durham’s misunderstanding is extended to the belief that a Quaker may only claim conscientious objector status only in such cases in which a war is declared in a direct challenge to Quaker pacifism.

The same piece also quotes one Robert Destro, a law professor at the Catholic University of America, who laughably claims that, in the case of the decision of whether or not to distribute informed consent materials, “[...] the doctor has a choice to make: either offer the materials, or not,”... “Religion has nothing to do with it.” In fact, the care provider (not necessarily a doctor) does not have a choice. (And, true to Destro's faith, the woman's preferences aren't considered in the least.) The compulsory materials are state-mandated, and that’s the whole point. Further, it’s simply comical to see a Catholic commentator pretend that he has no concept of how religion might possibly play into this entirely secular issue regarding entirely secular laws that were surely in no way authored under religious influence.

All of this second-rate comedy notwithstanding, a majority of observers seemed to immediately grasp what we are all about, with only the occasional expressions of confusion regarding how, exactly, the Hobby Lobby ruling actually plays in to our Informed Consent exemption, to which I can only defer, again, to our press release:

TST spokesperson, Lucien Greaves, points out that the controversial Hobby Lobby ruling bolsters their cause: “While we feel we have a strong case for an exemption regardless of the Hobby Lobby ruling, the Supreme Court has decided that religious beliefs are so sacrosanct that they can even trump scientific fact. This was made clear when they allowed Hobby Lobby to claim certain contraceptives were abortifacients, when in fact they are not. Because of the respect the Court has given to religious beliefs, and the fact that our our beliefs are based on best available knowledge, we expect that our belief in the illegitimacy of state-mandated ‘informational’ material is enough to exempt us, and those who hold our beliefs, from having to receive them.”

Confusion on this point seems to arise from a strange sense, that a significant minority apparently holds, that the Hobby Lobby ruling is only relevant in the case of corporations looking to deny certain benefits to their employees. A few perplexed commenters have pointed out that we offer our exemption to individuals, not corporations, thus Hobby Lobby surely has no application. A fact of the Hobby Lobby ruling is that The Supreme Court, finding in their favor, posited the personhood of the Hobby Lobby corporation. Individuals are still people as well, and it is indicative of another hideous consequence of the notion of corporate personhood that some of the lay public now seem resigned to the perception that one must be incorporated to fully have one’s personhood realized.  

We, The Satanic Temple, feel it is only a matter of time before our exemptions are put to the test and, in the meantime, we are eager to see the battle play out. We have received an encouraging flood of supportive letters -- from firm believers in personal sovereignty which have added to our unshakeable motivation -- one of which I am happy to share below:

I am writing to say thank you for standing up for all Women's rights to choose whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term and if they choose the latter to not be bullied and treated as if she is doing an unthinkable act. I have had two abortions, I experienced the information given and the 45 minute video they made me watch to get the procedure I paid over a thousand dollars for, both times mind you. It made me feel as though I was doing something wrong. I fully realized I was not and that it was in the best interest of my situation at that time to end the unwanted, unexpected pregnancy. It is a huge step in the way of combating Hobby Lobby and the Supreme Court's move to put Women into a rank of lower human than zygotes and men. I'm sure you're going to get letters saying the opposite of what this one does. I deeply appreciate the work that has gone into giving Women their freedom to choose what is done with their bodies without being treated as though they're guilty of some horrid act. It is a great thing to know that women will be able to go in without fear[...]

Originally posted to Lucien Greaves on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 06:31 PM PDT.

Also republished by Street Prophets and Feminism, Pro-Feminism, Womanism: Feminist Issues, Ideas, & Activism.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'll admit that I laughed when I (10+ / 0-)

    first saw an article about this...but I was glad to see it. "Informed consent" is state-mandated bullying and interference in the doctor-patient relationship. The hell with Hobby Lobby. Uh...oops?

    I yam what I yam --Popeye

    by BadKitties on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 06:48:02 PM PDT

  •  First Amendment is Christian (17+ / 0-)

    according to some of the Christian commentators: Christianity to them is the only religion and therefore Islam, Buddhism, Wicca, and Satanism cannot be considered religions under the Constitution.

    Good work--you've rattled a few of their mental cages and they are exposing their theocratic designs.

    Thanks.

    •  That cage has been rattled many many times over (8+ / 0-)

      Attempts were made back in the 1980s to restrict Tax Exemption for churches to Christian churches only. Then again with the other FBI (faith Based initiatives) and now, here we are again.

      I will be glad when the rest of America stops forgetting this every five minutes and starts putting religious rights back into the individual tool box and stops putting it up as if it were some corporate right to inflict upon workers.

      "It were a thousand times better for the land if all Witches, but especially the blessing Witch, might suffer death." qtd by Ehrenreich & English. For Her Own Good, Two Centuries of Expert's Advice to Women pp 40

      by GreenMother on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 04:56:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Is there a way to see the letter without (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lujane, valion

    downloading a doc?  Like maybe the letter in PDF form?

    (It's nothing personal.  I don't download docs from websites.)

    © cai Visit 350.org to join the fight against global warming.

    by cai on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 09:13:33 PM PDT

  •  Perhaps you have heard of the blogger who, (9+ / 0-)

    a few years ago, organized a fund drive to send loaded ipods and big earphones to a clinic in Texas where health care workers were required to read a medically misleading informed consent spiel to their patients.

    The law apparently mandated that they read the boilerplate baloney; it said nothing about the patient having to listen.

    But now it seems patients must sign off as having heard/seen the baloney?

    When one gets right down to it, isn't the state requiring a person to listen against their will to religiously-derived misinformation right in the bulls-eye of state establishment of religion?

    Silly me, only corporations are always people.  Men sometimes.  Women almost never.

    © cai Visit 350.org to join the fight against global warming.

    by cai on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 09:19:57 PM PDT

    •  How can they force doctors to read these fact free (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      whl, wilderness voice, cai

      disclaimers? Do the doctors have cameras pointed on them to make them toe the line? I just never understood that. Couldn't the doctors just say that they're doing that but not comply?

      •  Patients might report them if they didn't. (0+ / 0-)

        Or their own medical staff.  

        Some may not be reading them, but I guarantee they're not being public about it.

        It occurs to me that one could say one's preferred language for receiving this advice be a language one does not speak.

        © cai Visit 350.org to join the fight against global warming.

        by cai on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 11:06:56 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  If I'm a woman seeking an abortion, having to (0+ / 0-)

          fight my way through a gauntlet of nutcases, why would I report a doctor as being derelict on an already b.s. policy?

          •  You might be a woman not seeking an abortion (0+ / 0-)

            but who happens to be pregnant.

            Women do change their minds at doctors' offices -- as is their absolute right.  But people who never intended to get an abortion could "go undercover".

            Likewise, a woman who regretted her choice, or who was bullied into feeling she should regret her choice, could decide to turn on the doctors who helped her.

            "Roe" is now a "pro-life" activist.  

            © cai Visit 350.org to join the fight against global warming.

            by cai on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 10:53:02 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  I did not realize I could be a Satanist (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lujane

    and not have any beliefs in Satan as a being that exists.  Quite odd.  Other than needling terrified Evangelicals, why pick that name?

    The closest religion to mine is the Church of Reality.  ("If it's real, we believe in it.")  However, I do not accept that I should have to define my personal beliefs about my own bodily autonomy as religious in order to be allowed to live them.

    Therefore, I'm sorry to say I don't think the letter would work for me, unless it omits the word "religious" concerning my beliefs.  "Deeply held", yes.  "Religious", no.

    © cai Visit 350.org to join the fight against global warming.

    by cai on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 09:24:25 PM PDT

    •  Read our FAQ (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      whl, cai

      It's hyperlinked in the piece. While we don't advocate for a personal Satan, we do not feel in the least that our Satanism is an arbitrarily chosen label (at least no more so than for any other religion). Also, we do argue for "deeply-held belief" and don't require that one self-identify as a Satanist for us to defend their personal sovereignty -- we merely feel that we are in a unique position to make such an argument, that this exemption is based on deeply-held belief over self-serving convenience, as it reflects our foundational religious belief. You can imagine that you're taking some type of high ground by refusing to accept your own deeply-held beliefs as your "religion", but you're only conceding privilege and exemption to superstition-based political activists who are only too happy to accept your righteous resignation.

      •  I feel it is buying into the privilege of the (0+ / 0-)

        religious to try to fit my beliefs into their terminology.

        But thanks for acting superior with me.  It certainly endears your organization to potential allies.

        © cai Visit 350.org to join the fight against global warming.

        by cai on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 09:58:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Not trying to "act superior" (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cai

          But admittedly defensive when it is suggested that we could merely walk away from Satanism, or simply relabel it as something else. The suggestion, again, is one of insincerity, and we've too much to lose by not asserting our genuine attachment to it.

          •  I didn't mean to suggest you relabel yourself. (0+ / 0-)

            If I implied that, I apologize.

            I was saying I cannot relabel myself as a Satanist, because it would be insincere if I did it.  And I've had too many people try to insist at me that my atheism is a religion -- when it's not -- to be willing to set that aside.

            Different strokes.

            © cai Visit 350.org to join the fight against global warming.

            by cai on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 10:53:09 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Misunderstanding (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              cai, themeliorist

              My mistake. I thought you were saying, as people do with frustrating regularity, that our Satanism is no more than an attempt to annoy and insult Christians. It's possible that the issue of our sincerity will become an important legal issue, and we've been thoughtlessly assaulted (by venues like The Atlantic) with an amazing flagrance, to the point that my irritability on the topic is high.
              I, too, argue that atheism is not a religion, but that atheistic religions are completely legitimate. I think it's inappropriate, really, for anybody to try and narrowly define atheist values and identity.

              •  I was not aware of the history of atheistic (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                themeliorist

                Satanism as described below either, so pardon my ignorance.

                And I've spent (futile) time trying to explain to people what "strong" and "weak" atheism are, and why not worshipping their deity is no more a religion for me than not playing a sport is an activity.  So I think we both have hair triggers on this.  :)

                © cai Visit 350.org to join the fight against global warming.

                by cai on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 11:21:34 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

            •  A few thoughts that came to me while eating lunch (0+ / 0-)

              Wikipedia's definition of religion is "an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence," so if one accepts that, anyone can have religion without the question of "do gods exist?" even being considered.

              With that in mind, religions that put a lot of value on knowledge and truth like Satanism and Luciferianism would only really make sense if they are forced to conform to that which is known: a scientific understanding of the universe. After all, how can one say they're all about wisdom when denying things that are scientifically demonstrated and asserting raw conjecture to be truth?

              I consider weak atheism to be a logical conclusion to draw from scientific knowledge. The supernatural has no testable definition and there is no evidence for it, so it has as much reason to be considered and debated as any of an infinite number of untestable ideas that one could potentially come up with. People only entertain the idea of the supernatural because it's a popular idea, not because it has any merit. A Satanist should avoid wishful thinking.

              I personally identify more with Lucifer than Satan, but I'm a bit of both. I didn't relabel myself a Luciferian; I added it to the other labels. In fact I don't really even like the word atheist because I find "ignostic" a more fitting description. Of course the only reason to have a "I don't do this thing" label at all is because so many people "do this thing." Remember how people used to get classified as smokers and non-smokers? With a lot fewer places to smoke and a lot fewer people smoking, I don't hear the term "non-smoker" much anymore. Maybe one day that will be the same for atheists.

    •  Athesitic Satanism (9+ / 0-)

      Actually the majority of Satanists and Luciferians are atheistic. The Church of Satan, founded in 1966 as the first formalized Satanic religion, is atheistic, as is The Satanic Temple. The Temple of Set leaves the matter to the individual. So I find the piece by The Atlantic really bizarre. The narrative seems to be that The Satanic Temple came up with some goofy unheard-of atheistic Satanism last week and started trolling everyone.

      In fact, the official position of the Church of Satan is that their atheistic religion is the only one that can be called Satanism because it was the first one formalized, and that "theistic Satanism" is an oxymoron. I disagree, but whatever.

      It's not merely a matter of choosing a bad or scary mascot, though provocation and inverting a dominant religion definitely factors in to varying degrees for different organizations and individuals. Satanists and Luciferians take a symbolic or archetypal view of this entity (or entities) and apply them to everyday life. It's not the cartoon devil of pop culture, but more of a Promethean being who rebelled against the capricious, evil Yahweh and exposed mankind to knowledge. Obviously this is greatly simplified, but basically the idea is that the God of the Bible is the evil, destructive one, and that Satan or Lucifer is the being who set the example that it's okay to defy it.

      There tends to be a difference between Satanists and Luciferians. Satanists are usually more rebellious and hedonistic, with a carnal view of life. The Church of Satan has a lot of ideas very inspired by Nietzsche and Rand, though The Satanic Temple is far more progressive in its tenets. Luciferians, on the other hand, tend to be more focused on knowledge and wisdom, viewing Lucifer as the bringer of light.

      This is not to say one can't be both, treating both characters as flip sides of the same being and their primary attributes as different aspects of one's own personality.

      Ultimately, though, religion has never necessitated belief in the supernatural. I only ever hear the argument that it should in reference to Satanism. You can be Buddhist or Taoist, for example, with zero belief in the supernatural. But it definitely seems that "deeply held beliefs" are more privileged when they're based on belief in the supernatural, which strikes me as extremely bizarre. It's like saying, "the more irrational your reasoning is, the more untouchable and legitimate it is."

      It's late and I'm sleepy so I hope this made sense.

      •  It did. Most people have no concept of Satanism (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lujane, whl, themeliorist, Penny GC, cai

        beyond the stereotypes presented on television or in pulp fiction and chick tracts.

        "It were a thousand times better for the land if all Witches, but especially the blessing Witch, might suffer death." qtd by Ehrenreich & English. For Her Own Good, Two Centuries of Expert's Advice to Women pp 40

        by GreenMother on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 04:58:46 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Mephistopheles (0+ / 0-)

    The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor John Faustus by Christopher Marlowe (as per Faust by Goethe).

    Lucifer

    The Divine Comedy, Inferno, by Dante Alighieri

    Lucifer/Satan

    Paradise Lost by John Milton

    It is both ironic and stupid that almost all interpretations of Satan/Lucifer/Devil come from literature. The popular misconceptions about this fictional character have no resemblance to the Hebrew Bible or the New Testament.

    The interpretations of Satan are subject matter for literary criticism, neither religion nor philosophy are relevant.

    We're all just working for Pharaoh.

    by whl on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 06:21:47 AM PDT

    •  Literary criticism indeed (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      themeliorist, whl

      The Abrahamic faiths and their theology are but prolonged and tedious exercises in literary criticism. The difference is in those who take the literature to be an accurate history, and those with the sense enough to see that it is not. Why not look to better-constructed literature for inspiration?

      •  Tedium . . . te Deum . . . whatever? (0+ / 0-)

        As many a collegiate English major has noticed (and some have commented on this) John Milton's Satan probably has the far better argument in Paradise Lost.

        My own go-to guy was the comedian Flip Wilson. "The Devil made me do it" was his mantra for on-stage characters who took no personal responsibility for any of their destructive, stupid actions.

        That personal Satan is such a tempter--especially in a red dress, stiletto heels, and elbow length white leather gloves.

        We're all just working for Pharaoh.

        by whl on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 01:05:37 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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