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Satanic Temple lawsuit alleges Idaho's abortion laws violate constitutional rights

Restricting nearly all abortions, except in the case of rape or incest, violates the Fifth, 13th, and 14th Amendments, according to the lawsuit.

IDAHO, USA — The Satanic Temple filed a lawsuit against the State of Idaho on Sept. 30 alleging the state's abortion laws violate constitutional rights and the state's Expression of Religious Freedom Act.

The lawsuit specifically claims violations of the Fifth, 13th, and 14th Amendments.

The four counts read in order:

  1. The Idaho Abortion Bans Unconstitutionally Take the Property of Involuntarily Pregnant Women Without Just Compensation.
  2. The Idaho Abortion Bans Subject Involuntarily Pregnant Women to Involuntary Servitude in Violation of the Thirteenth Amendment.
  3. The Idaho Abortion Bans Unconstitutionally Discriminate Between Women Who Become Pregnant by Accident and Those Who Claim They Are Pregnant by Rape or Incest.
  4. The Idaho Abortion Bans Violate the Idaho Exercise of Religious Freedom Act Because They Make the Exercise of the Satanic Abortion Ritual a Crime.

The first three claims are secular, and are largely unaffected by the Satanic Temple's status as a religious organization. Count 4, however, is based solely on the fact that Idaho's abortion laws - restricting most abortions except for the case of rape or incest - violate the "seven tenets" doctrine of the Satanic Temple, according to the lawsuit.

Two tenets specifically are mentioned in the lawsuit:

  • Tenet III: One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.
  • Tenet V: Beliefs should conform to one’s best scientific understanding of the world. One should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit one’s beliefs.

"Religious freedom in America protects all sorts of religions," UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh said. "And if [the court says], 'ya know, we don't think you're being sincere about that, we're thinking you have a secular reason you are trying to hide under the rubric of religion.' That would keep you from getting the exemption."

A religious exemption argument does not need to be logical or derive from ancient scripture, according to Volokh. The teaching has to be sincerely believed without a secular motivation.

“So for example, if someone comes to court wearing a yarmulke - a Jewish head covering - and says, ‘can I have an exemption from the no hats rule?’ Courts will say, ‘yeah, you’re probably sincere cause why would you lie about something like that? What's the upside to you in claiming a religious belief as to hats that you wouldn't normally have?’ On the other hand, if it's something a lot of people want for secular reasons - in that case - they might not be able to get an exemption,” Volokh said.

The lawsuit is asking for the state to be banned from "enforcing the Idaho Abortion Bans against the Involuntarily Pregnant Women who are members of [The Satanic Temple] or anyone who provides such an Involuntarily Pregnant Woman with an abortion."

The Idaho Attorney General's office did not comment on the lawsuit. The AG's office has a policy against commenting on pending litigation, according to spokesperson Scott Graf.

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