A Different World

July 31, 2014

Issac Bailey blog | Should Satanists be afforded religious rights like Christian Hobby Lobby?

I did not agree with the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling, which established religious rights for corporations for the first time, and because it makes little sense to allow employers to dictate to women what they do and don’t need medically. And contrary to overly-simplistic criticism, those women are not asking for free handouts – they work every day and earn health insurance as part of their compensation.

A Different World

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I did not agree with the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling, which established religious rights for corporations for the first time, and because it makes little sense to allow employers to dictate to women what they do and don’t need medically. And contrary to overly-simplistic criticism, those women are not asking for free handouts – they work every day and earn health insurance as part of their compensation.

But there’s a bigger issue at play. Where do you draw the line on religious rights for corporations? A case that will be making its way through the court system may help us answer that question, politically if not legally, one brought by Satanists looking to assert their religious liberty, too.

If you agree that Hobby Lobby should get special carve-outs from federal laws because of their beliefs, should that privilege be extended to the religious group the Satanists? Or should only religious groups you approve of receive such rights?

Same-sex marriage opponents ask a similar question about where the legal line should be drawn. If a same-sex couple should be allowed to marry because of their liberty rights, should polygamy also be OKed? My answer is yes, the only caveat being that such a right must make sure young girls are not forced into those marriages, which has happened too frequently in the history of polygamy. I don’t have to agree with people’s choices to determine that they must be afforded the right to make their own decisions.

From the piece about Satanists: According to Resnick, the Satanic Temple only has about 20 active members; people can join through an email listserv. Although the size of the group doesn't directly affect the strength of its religious-liberty claims, their goals and actions do provide evidence about how sincere they are. "To say your religion is completely separated from your politics is asinine," Mesner told Resnick in February. "Our political actions are our religion."

In short, if the Satanic Temple took this to court, it would probably have a hard time showing that informed-consent laws are a violation of its sincerely held religious beliefs, rather than a group of people's political views.

But as much as anything, the Satanic Temple is trying to make a point: The Supreme Court has accepted the earnestness of one group's politically controversial religious views, leaving an open question about what qualifies as a sincerely held religious belief. The ruling in Hobby Lobby was made "in the context of a familiar religious tradition, rather than one outside of the mainstream," Peñalver said. "We’re a religiously diverse country."

This case "seems self-consciously political and theatrical," said Peñalver. But "in terms of the kinds of religious claims we might see in the future, that’s a very difficult question to answer."

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