Federal judge dismisses Satanic Temple’s RFRA challenge to abortion law

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A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit from the Satanic Temple, which sued state and local officials in an attempt to provide mail-order abortion drugs to its members who became pregnant.

The group argued that Indiana’s recent near-total abortion ban violates the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act by prohibiting members from performing its “Satanic Abortion Ritual.”

The group also alleged the law violates the Fifth Amendment, 14th Amendment and 13th Amendment.

The lawsuit was filed in September 2022 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.

The defendants — Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita and Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears — filed a motion to dismiss an amended complaint filed in March.

Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson granted the motion Wednesday.

In the order, Magnus-Stinson ruled the Satanic Temple failed to prove the facts necessary to support associational standing by not identifying members.

Instead, the order says, the group relied on an unidentified doctor who opined on the unidentified members.

“Overall, the Satanic Temple invites a paradox of inferences,” Magnus-Stinson wrote, concluding the group tried to “statistically identify its members,” a practice the U.S. Supreme Court forbids.

Magnus-Stinson also ruled the Satanic Temple doesn’t have standing itself because, in addition to falling short of proving injury in fact, the group failed to prove causation and redressability.

The Satanic Temple argued it has suffered multiple injuries, including the threat of prosecution and expanding costs to comply with the abortion law.

Addressing the injuries, Magnus-Stinson ruled the group failed to make clear it intends to engage in conduct that is unlawful.

In dismissing the complaint without leave to amend, Magnus-Stinson wrote that granting leave would only produce more briefings, which the court has already done once.

“The Satanic Temple had an opportunity to submit evidence,” the order says. “It had notice of its standing defects. And it was given the opportunity to cure them. It has failed on all fronts.”

The case is The Satanic Temple, Inc. v. Todd Rokita, in his capacity as Attorney General of Indiana, and Ryan Mears, in his capacity as Marion County Prosecutor, 1:22-cv-01859.

In a statement, Rokita praised the court’s dismissal.

“This lawsuit was ridiculous on its face, but this court decision is important because it sustains a pro-life law that is constitutionally and legally sound,” Rokita said. “We Hoosiers continue to build a solid culture of life whether satanic cultists like it or not.”

The Indiana Supreme Court has already ruled the abortion law doesn’t violate the Indiana Constitution via a violation of the right to “liberty.” The high court made the ruling in June and later denied a motion for rehearing.

Another challenge to the abortion law brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana is still pending.

The challenge in Individual Members of the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana, et al. v. Anonymous Plaintiff 1, et al., 22A-PL-02938, also relies on the state’s RFRA law.

The case is currently with the Court of Appeals of Indiana. Oral arguments have been scheduled for Dec. 6.

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