Free Speech for Satanism? | Opinion

The First Amendment has long been a bedrock principle of my worldview.

I support free speech, and free religious exercise, both in spirit and in the letter of the law. I've spent years railing against leftist censorship in all areas of society, especially on college campuses and social media.

All but the most libertarian of thinkers, however, agree that there are legitimate legal limits to expression. Some things are so objectionable—even downright evil—that they don't merit society's protection.

The Supreme Court spent decades figuring out where to draw the line. One famous possibility was "you can't yell fire in a crowded theater," a paraphrasing of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.'s opinion in the United States Supreme Court case Schenck v. United States in 1919. That case established the "clear and present danger" standard that the Court followed for 50 years.

In its 1969 decision Brandenburg v. Ohio, the Court ruled the 1919 standard too broad, and replaced it with the "imminent lawless action" test. This new test established that the state could only limit speech that incites imminent unlawful action, "that it will bring about forthwith certain substantive evils that the United States constitutionally may seek to prevent."

The Court still uses this test today, affirming that limits to free expression are a matter of preventing "substantive evils." And there should be at least one "substantive evil" Americans can all agree to prevent: worshiping Satan. Yes, it's an extreme example, but it's also illustrative in helping to establish a rationale for conservatives as we navigate difficult debates over speech.

For those who are unaware, Lucifer himself is venerated by a small but growing collection of adherents across all 50 states. There are a variety of different Satanist groups. Some of them are merely atheists hoping to offend Christians with juvenile stunts like placing a Baphomet statue next to the Nativity scene. But others take a much darker path.

A group of these individuals gathered this month in Scottsdale, Arizona, for the first "SatanCon." Organized by "The Satanic Temple," the event hosted sessions about on "raising children in a satanic household" and how abortion is actually a religious rite of Satanism.

The Satanic Temple has recently begun a lawfare campaign to promote abortion, arguing that abortion is not merely a women's right or a privacy issue, but a religious ritual for Satanists and must be protected on First Amendment grounds.

Satanic temple
A view of the Satanic Temple logo where a "Hell House" was being held is seen in Salem, Massachusetts on October 8, 2019. - The Hell House was a parody on a Christian Conversion center meant to scare atheist and other Satanic Church members. Joseph Prezioso / AFP/Getty Images

In a statement opposing the Texas Heartbeat Act, the Satanic Temple website asserts that "The Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act (TRFRA) provides a mechanism to seek an exemption from any law that restricts the free exercise of religion. Because [the Heartbeat Act] imposes an undue burden on the ability of [Satanic Temple] members to undergo the Satanic Abortion Ritual, the first step in defending the rights of its members is to seek an exemption under TRFRA. If the state declines to provide such an exemption, TST can then seek judicial relief from the law."

A "Satanic Abortion Ritual" surely meets the definition of imminent and substantive evil. It's demonic—literally.

The group's public marketing attempts to obscure and downplay just how deranged this argument truly is. The Satanic Temple claims to only be a group of atheists who don't literally worship Satan, but use him as a figurehead for values they want to see in the world. They claim to value "benevolence and empathy among all people" and advocate for "practical common sense" and "noble pursuits." But their advocacy for literal abortion rituals exposes the fraudulence of claims that their Satanism is merely symbolic.

Satan worship is not what the Founders had in mind when they extolled the "fruits of liberty." There is no perceivable public benefit to protecting it. True freedom is the pursuit of the good, the virtuous and the beautiful.

Conservatives have for too long sat on the sidelines and allowed libertarian arguments to color our perception of the world. No longer. We can and should use the law to shut down Satanism. This is why we have obscenity laws to this day, and thank God for them.

There will, of course, be those who worry about a slippery slope effect. What's next, Charlie? Where do you draw the line? We draw the line at Satan. He is real, and he is the personification of evil. Worship of Satan was never intended to be a right when the Constitution was drafted.

The First Amendment reads, in part, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." "Religion" being the key word here.

None of the Founding Fathers would have considered Satan worship to be a legitimate form of religion. And they would be right—it isn't a religion, it's an anti-religion, dedicated to desecrating and destroying Judeo-Christian traditions and societies.

The libertarian values of "live and let live" are attractive to many, but there is no room for libertarianism in the face of true evil. Evils come in many forms and go by many names. But this example has the benefit of not being obscured or hidden, which is why it matters. By its very nature, evil cannot "live and let live." It consumes the living. Conservatives can and should use state power where possible to fight this madness. And we should never apologize for it.

God or Satan. To quote the old union song, which side are you on?

Charlie Kirk is the founder and president of Turning Point USA and host of the top-rated podcast and nationally syndicated Salem radio program, The Charlie Kirk Show.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.