I am a 40-something attorney and mother who lives in a quiet neighborhood with a yard and a garage full of scooters and soccer balls. I often walk with my children to get ice cream and spend weekends hiking through a national park. I am not the type of person who would normally consider becoming a Satanist, but these are not normal times.
Like so many other women in the United States, when I learned of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing, my first reaction was not grief but fear. I fear that American citizens are inching closer to living in a theocracy or dictatorship and that the checks meant to prevent this from happening are close to eroding beyond repair.
When Justice Ginsburg died, I knew immediately that action was needed on a scale we have not seen before. Our democracy has become so fragile that the loss of one of the last guardians of common sense and decency in government less than two months before a pivotal election has put our civil and reproductive rights in danger like never before. And, so, I have turned to Satanism.
Members of the Satanic Temple do not believe in the supernatural or superstition. In the same way that some Unitarians and some Jews do not believe in God, Satanic Temple members do not worship Satan and most are atheists. They are not affiliated in any way with the Church of Satan. Instead, the Satanic Temple uses the devil as a symbol of rebellion.
Just like other faiths, the Satanic Temple has a code that their members believe in deeply and use to guide their lives. These Seven Fundamental Tenets include that “one should strive to act with compassion and empathy toward all creatures in accordance with reason,” that “the struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions,” and that “one’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.”
Reading through the Seven Tenets, I was struck by how closely they aligned with the unwritten code I had used to try to guide my own life for several years. I realized, happily, that these were my people and that I had been a Satanist for several years without even knowing it. When Justice Ginsburg’s death suddenly made combating the threats to reproductive rights and a government free from religious interference more urgent, I knew it was time to join them and support their conceptual and legal battles.
Even before Ginsburg’s death, the Supreme Court was unwilling to provide adequate protection for a woman’s right to choose and to control her body. The court was unwilling to keep church and state separate. Now, without her voice of reason on the court ― let alone her vote ― Roe v. Wade is in imminent danger of being overturned not based on legal arguments or scientific reasoning, but because of religious objections to what is a safe and necessary procedure for the women who seek it out after discussion with their physician. Ginsburg’s replacement is all but certain to be vehemently anti-choice, with one of the top contenders belonging to a sect that actually used the term “handmaid” to refer to some women until the popularity of the TV series “The Handmaid’s Tale” gave the term negative connotations.
“Reading through the Seven Tenets, I was struck by how closely they aligned with the unwritten code I had used to try to guide my own life for several years. I realized, happily, that these were my people and that I had been a Satanist for several years without even knowing it.”
In the hours after Justice Ginsburg’s death, I sat wondering what the future would hold for my daughters. Their ability to live in a country where the religious beliefs of others would not play a role in their right to assert autonomy over their own bodies was suddenly, starkly, in danger. Traditional means of keeping abortion safe and legal seemed woefully inadequate to protect the rights that women in the generation before me had fought so hard to secure.
Almost immediately I sought strength in the Satanic Temple’s efforts to turn religious arguments on their head by pushing for religious liberty for their members on an equal basis with believers in the dominant Christian faiths. And this is not just a theoretical push. The temple has launched campaigns and filed lawsuits to compel the government to do this in matters ranging from exemptions from legal mandates to cover birth control to the ability to display religious symbols in government buildings or allow religious clubs in public schools. By pointing out instances where the government has favored Christian rhetoric ― and filing legal challenges to stop it ― the Satanic Temple has transformed belief into action and has demonstrated what freedom fighting truly looks like.
The Satanic Temple hopes to appear before the Supreme Court in a case challenging a Missouri abortion law that requires those seeking to terminate their pregnancy to first receive materials asserting that their abortion would end the life of a separate, unique person. The temple argues that these materials violate the deeply held religious beliefs of one of its members regarding bodily autonomy and scientifically reasonable personal choice. The argument the Satanic Temple is using is the same one the Supreme Court effectively endorsed in the Hobby Lobby birth control case, for which Justice Ginsburg wrote the dissent ― that no one should have to follow a law that violates their deeply held religious beliefs. If a Christian should not have to do so based on their religion, a Satanist should not have to either. This is what equality under the law means on a fundamental level.
This is an organization I want standing up for my rights and for my daughters’. While I support more mainstream groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Church and State, my research has shown that the Satanic Temple is truly in line with my beliefs about protecting our First Amendment rights and fighting laws that promote or are based on religious doctrine and that it is willing to use radical, creative and yet legally sound strategies to make its case.
I was able to become a mother when I wanted on my own terms. Throughout my pregnancy, I had access to scientifically accurate information and the ability to make informed choices with my doctor. While I never had an abortion, I want the same opportunities to choose for my own daughters. I am far from certain these rights will exist 10 years from now when they may be deciding when, how or even whether to start their own families.
“We need creative, resolute thinkers who are willing to stand up for what they believe in and take concrete action to do so, and the Satanic Temple is full of those kind of people. I am proud to now count myself among their ranks.”
There is a real chance that the Supreme Court will be lost for a generation or more to justices appointed for their religious beliefs rather than a deep understanding of the Constitution or a desire for justice to be carried out on an impartial basis. Because of this, I believe that the Satanic Temple ― and its members’ dedication to fighting for true freedom ― represents our best, last defense against anti-choice lawmakers who are seeking to assert power over women’s bodies and take away our right to choose. We need creative, resolute thinkers who are willing to stand up for what they believe in and take concrete action to do so, and the Satanic Temple is full of those kind of people. I am proud to now count myself among their ranks.
Everyone who cares about women having autonomy over their bodies should care about efforts to use religion to chip away at this right. We need to think outside the box to challenge what is coming and what is already here. The Satanic Temple is already doing that, and by becoming one of its members, I believe I have joined a community of people who will stop at nothing to safeguard my family’s rights ― and all of our rights ― when they are at their most vulnerable.
Jamie Smith is an attorney and mother who cares about civil rights. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.