The devil’s advocates have joined the fight for abortion rights.
The Satanic Temple is suing an ad agency for alleged religious discrimination after the firm refused to put up its pro-abortion rights billboards in Arkansas and Indiana.
The temple claims that Lamar Advertising is preventing it from sharing the details of its “religious abortion ritual,” which is seemingly designed to help women get around state barriers to the procedure. The temple says those who receive the abortion “sacrament” can claim a religious exemption from mandatory waiting periods, counselling and other state rules that make it more difficult to obtain a timely abortion.
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The Satanic Temple does not believe in a god, but it is still listed as a tax-exempt religious organization in the United States. It describes its abortion “ritual” as a “sacramental act that confirms the rights of bodily autonomy.”
The Salem, Mass.-based “church” says it had a contract with Lamar to put up eight billboards to promote its ritual.
Lamar refused to put up the billboards because it deemed them “misleading and offensive,” according to the lawsuit. The temple says it was willing to make revisions, but Lamar refused to offer specific feedback for the revisions.
Three mock-ups released by the Satanic Temple feature the message: “Our religious abortion ritual averts many state restrictions.”
One image shows a woman holding a tiny Adolf Hitler alongside the caption: “What if abortion had been an option?”
Another shows cake batter with the caption “Not a cake,” and an embryo with the caption “Not a baby.”
The Satanic Temple had sought to put up the billboards near crisis pregnancy centres in Arkansas and Indiana, which use state laws to restrict and delay access to abortions.
“While it is understandable to be concerned with forcing a private entity to engage in speech or conduct it objects to, this scenario is different,” Satanic Temple co-founder Lucien Greaves said in a news release. “Lamar initially agreed to work with us and their rejection appears to be religiously based.”
Greaves added that Lamar has a virtual “monopoly” in some areas.
“In this way, Lamar is able to regulate public-speech and they are not permitted to selectively exclude religious voices they object to.”
The Louisiana-based ad agency did not immediately respond to an Associated Press request for comment.
Access to abortion remains a hotly contested topic at the federal and many state levels in the U.S.
Abortions remain legal across the country, but speculation has ramped up recently that the Supreme Court will revisit the landmark Roe v. Wade case once a new conservative justice is appointed. Abortion opponents have long called for that case to be struck down.
The Satanic Temple describes itself as a “non-theistic movement aligned with liberty, equality and rationalism,” according to Greaves. Its followers espouse many secular values, such as reproductive rights, individual freedoms and acting with compassion and empathy toward others.
The Satanic Temple’s followers do not actually believe in Satan.
—With files from The Associated Press