Texas’s controversial anti-abortion law known as the “Heartbeat Bill” went into effect at midnight on Sept. 1, 2021. Less than 24 hours later, the U.S. Supreme Court declared it would not block the law.
In response, The Satanic Temple, a nontheistic group that has been recognized by the IRS as a religion, announced that it would fight back by invoking the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA, to demand exemption from abortion restrictions on religious grounds. RFRA laws, which came into effect in 1993, restrict the government’s ability to burden religious practices.
Like the Heartbeat Bill itself, The Satanic Temple’s efforts to circumvent abortion restrictions on religious grounds involve a creative and complicated legal strategy. As a scholar who studies the ways in which The Satanic Temple’s provocations affect public debates about religious freedom, I anticipate their latest legal argument will challenge some assumptions about RFRA and the freedoms it was designed to protect.