Oral arguments began this week in a religious freedom lawsuit brought by the Satanic Temple that challenges Missouri's abortion restrictions. The lawsuit argues that the state's law requiring "'informed consent' materials, ultrasound, and [a] 72-hour waiting period" for women who request an abortion impedes the religious freedom of Satanic Temple members.
In 2015, a member of the Temple drove three hours to the nearest Planned Parenthood seeking an abortion, and was told that the law required her to review an informational booklet and wait 72 hours before ending her pregnancy. Owing to the fact that the inviolability of one's own bodily autonomy is among the church's central tenets, the lawsuit argues that these restrictions forced the woman to violate her will for her body—namely, her desire to have the abortion she wanted, immediately and without state interference.
While this argument might sound more sophistic than sophisticated, the United States has a rich history of religious exemptions to law. Perhaps unsurprising for a country with origins as a sanctuary for religious persecution, loopholes for religious belief are as old as our laws. Still, it hasn't been a straightforward path from those founding ideals to the religious exemptions the Satanic Temple argues its members deserve. Centuries of legislation, court rulings, religious discrimination, and religious liberation all culminate in the Temple's curious argument. An examination of that history shows the separation of church and state to be ... actually rather confusing.