(KTVX) – Religion has always been a major topic of discussion in Utah.
After all, the Salt Lake Valley was settled in 1896 by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints fleeing persecution across the country.
One religion, though few in number in Hive State, grabbed national headlines this week as a major voice against a controversial anti-abortion bill passed in Texas. The Satanic Temple (TST), headquartered in Salem, Massachusetts, intends to relax his own rights to freedom of religion by challenging the bill and ask its members to have access to abortion pills.
Faith members in Utah are preparing to defend the church’s position on abortion and the bill with a rally to be held Sept. 25 at the State Capitol Building.
While the temple images may shock many, especially those of traditional or Christian descent who are taught that Satan is the root of all evil and the adversary of righteousness, Satanists in Utah say they don’t are not bad.
“In my personal experience, the people who identified themselves as Satanists are the nicest people I have ever met and the most generous people I have ever met in my entire life,” explains the head of the Satanic Temple of Utah congregation, Cody Jones. “Like any positive word you can think of, I can use it to describe Satanists I have met.”
As it stands, the Satanic Temple has only a few dozen official members in Utah, but Jones adds that the population of “allies,” or friends of the church who are less involved than a member at full time, numbered in the hundreds.
Satanists in Utah do not have a permanent meeting place and do not rent space for events and activities, but still do many other exercises that involve other religious groups in the state. They clean a section of the road as members of the Adop-A-Highway Program, collect supplies and donations for shelters for families and victims of domestic violence, and organize a program to collect feminine hygiene products. for people in need.
According to Jones and Chalice Blythe, who founded the first congregation in Utah in 2016 and now serve as spokespersons for international headquarters, the Satanic Temple emphasizes service to the community.
Religion, which does not espouse any gods or divinity, builds its argument against the prohibition of abortion on one of its major principles; bodily autonomy. The Satanic Temple holds seven fundamental principles which are:
- One should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason.
- The struggle for justice is a permanent and necessary quest which must prevail over laws and institutions.
- The body is inviolable, subject to its own will.
- The freedoms of others must be respected, including the freedom to offend. to intrude voluntarily and unjustly on the freedoms of others is to renounce one’s own.
- Beliefs must be consistent with our best scientific understanding of the world. You have to be careful never to distort scientific facts to adapt them to your beliefs.
- People are fallible. If one makes a mistake, one should do one’s best to rectify it and resolve any damage that may have been caused.
- Each principle is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom and justice must always prevail over the written or oral word.
While the Temple may seem like a bunch of trolls or political activists pushing an agenda, legally speaking it is a government-recognized religion and members like Jones and Blythe say they are serious in their beliefs. In 2019, the group obtained tax-exempt status from the IRS and was classified as a âchurch or convention or association of churchesâ.
Many experts believe that the Satanic Temple may have a valid argument for demanding the right to abortion for its members by calling it a ritual based on its principles of bodily autonomy and the pursuit of scientific knowledge.
In short, Temple leaders believe that while other religious beliefs can be used to enforce laws and rights, their beliefs should be valued and taken into account as well. The recent conversation on abortion has put the religious freedom debate in the spotlight, with the beliefs and legal status of the Satanic Temple having become a particularly intriguing argument.
âWhat we’re really doing is trying to assert ourselves in the rights that are granted to us,â Blythe says.
Living in Utah as a Satanist can be a challenge, according to Jones and Blythe. Jones says he first grew up in an LDS setting, and while Blythe says she was never baptized in the faith, she must have lived a predominantly âMormonâ life while growing up. And while Satanists do not believe in a literal Satan, holding the prince of darkness as a symbol of freedom of choice and resistance to arbitrary authority, showing themselves to family and friends as a believer in the principle of Temple had some grief associated with it. .
âSpeaking out as a Satanist is potentially losing friends, family and entire communities,â Blythe admits. “This is something you have to face, and it is something that we have seen as we come to terms with this unfortunate thing.”
Fortunately, say the Satanists, they have found a sense of community, understanding, and empathy by being together and holding onto their beliefs. The group is so committed to its principles of personal choice and respect for the freedoms of others that it frequently invites members of different faiths to its meetings to educate on its beliefs.
And although they are few in number – officially speaking – Satanists in Utah see themselves as an extremely tight-knit group, Blythe says.
âIf you are a TST member, you have a community that knows you and you have people around you who become your second family. “