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Satanic Temple Argues Ohio Burial Law is Unconstitutional

October 22nd, 2021

A burial law in Ohio mandates that fetal tissue be buried or cremated, raising important questions regarding the separation of church and state.
A burial law in Ohio mandates that fetal tissue be buried or cremated, raising important questions regarding the separation of church and state.

According to a bill signed in late 2020 by Governor DeWine of Ohio, fetal remains from surgical abortions must be either buried or cremated. The non-theistic religious group, the Satanic Temple, however, is threatening legal action because the group argues that the state cannot dictate burial practices to religious organizations. This burial law brings up an interesting issue on the role that religious rights have in the state of Ohio when it comes to abortions.

The Nature of the New Burial Law

The burial law that was signed by Governor DeWine states that the “final disposition of fetal remains from a surgical abortion at an abortion facility” be the result of either cremation or interment. If cremation is selected, remains must be placed in a crypt, grave, or niche. The law also permits remains to be scattered in a dignified manner, which includes memorial gardens, sea dispositions, air dispositions, or scattering grounds. Under Ohio law, facilities must also cover the cost of burial or cremation unless the mother makes arrangements other than the one provided. In these situations, pregnant women are responsible for the costs related to the final dispositions of fetal remains at a chosen location. People who are determined to have knowingly violated these requirements in Ohio are then subject to a first-degree misdemeanor. 

The Role of the Satanic Temple

Members of the Satanic Temple believe in neither the devil nor God. Instead, members of the Satanic Temple rely on Satanic imagery to promote both social justice and the separation of church and state. Consequently, the group now argues that Ohio’s abortion-related law violates the First Amendment. The bill revises a current state law that requires aborted fetuses to be “humanely disposed.” The bill, however, does not define “humanely.” Instead, the new regulation states that a pregnant woman who receives a surgical abortion has the right to assess whether the final disposition should involve cremation or internment as well as determine the location of the final disposition. 

A spokesperson for the Satanic Temple has commented that the new burial law violates the First Amendment. Further clarifying, the spokesperson expressed the perspective that Ohio’s desire to dictate funeral procedures compromises religious freedoms because these rites have been an essential component of religious practices for thousands of years. The spokesperson has also expressed the belief that fetal tissue should be incinerated with medical waste, as non-viable fetal tissue is part of the person who carries it. The spokesperson has also commented that the state imposition of ceremonial requirements violates a person’s ability to terminate a pregnancy on her own terms. Lastly, the spokesperson commented that the new regulation will increase hospital costs and internment as well as survey costs to make sure that facilities that perform surgical abortions comply with the regulation.

The Goal of the Universal Life Church

Many aspects of the role of religious rights in the United States arise from the Constitution, but each month there are still countless cases that challenge these founding principles. The Universal Life Church’s blog focuses each week on examining the most recent religious rights cases. We strive to do so in a way that objectively examines each case and which fairly examines both sides.

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