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This Week in God, 8.2.14

The cast model for a proposed monument for Satanists for the Oklahoma State Capitol.
The cast model for a proposed monument for Satanists for the Oklahoma State Capitol.
First up from the God Machine this week is a story about one faith group that appears eager to take the Supreme Court's recent Hobby Lobby ruling in a new direction -- one the ruling's defenders probably aren't going to like.

The Satanic Temple has launched a campaign seeking religious exemption from laws that restrict access to abortions, citing the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling. The group, which "facilitates the communication and mobilization of politically aware Satanists, secularists, and advocates for individual liberty," argues that states' "informed consent" laws violate its religious freedom.

In a press statement, the Satanic Temple's spokesperson, Lucien Graves, said the recent ruling from the high court's conservative justices, based on a specific approach to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, offers a unique opportunity.
"While we feel we have a strong case for exemption regardless of the Hobby Lobby ruling, the Supreme Court has decided that religious beliefs are so sacrosanct that they can even trump scientific fact," Graves said. "Because of the respect the Court has given to religious beliefs, and the fact that our beliefs are based on best available knowledge, we expect that our belief in the illegitimacy of state-mandated 'informational' material is enough to exempt us, and those who hold our beliefs, from having to receive them."
In effect, the Satanic Temple is saying it can follow the trail blazed by Hobby Lobby to object to anti-abortion provisions in several states.
As msnbc's Irin Carmon reported this week, this was a fear raised by the right back when it was first approved in the 1990s: "In fact, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the law under which Hobby Lobby won, was originally opposed by anti-abortion activists and members of Congress who feared it would be used to make that very argument: That access to abortion, and the right of every woman to plan her family, was a matter of religious conscience."
To be sure, supporters of reproductive rights have pursued this line of argument in the courts before, without success, though those efforts came before the Hobby Lobby ruling, which may have opened the door wider than conservatives hoped.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* President Obama this week chose Rabbi David Saperstein to serve as the next U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, heading the State Department's Office of International Religious Freedom. Saperstein will be the first non-Christian to hold the post since it was created 16 years ago.
* In Minnesota, Roman Catholic Archbishop John C. Nienstedt acknowledged mistakes this week "for the way his diocese has dealt with sexually abusive priests." Nienstedt "did not directly address accusations that he himself had had inappropriate sexual relationships with adult men, other than to say that he commissioned an investigation 'because I had nothing to hide and wanted to be vindicated from false allegations, as anyone would.'"
* And in Alabama this week, the head of the state Public Service Commission urged "all the citizens of Alabama" to "be in prayer" in opposition to EPA measures on carbon pollution.