The Satanic Temple said it is suing an Alabama billboard company over its rejection of an ad that targeted anti-abortion counseling centers.
The plan called for eight billboards in Arkansas and Indiana near crisis pregnancy centers, which counsel women against abortion. The billboards are owned by Lamar Advertising, based in Birmingham.
The billboards would have contained messages comparing a fertilized human egg, which it called “not a baby,” to cake batter, which it called “not a cake.”
The Satanic Temple says it has a religious abortion ritual that women getting an abortion can perform, which makes them exempt from complying with state regulations such as mandatory waiting periods and compulsory counseling. It argues that Religious Freedom Restoration Acts in many states “protect religious practices and beliefs from government interference.”
The Satanic Temple provides a downloadable letter of exemption from abortion regulations based on religious belief. The religious abortion ritual it provides includes the personal affirmation, “By my body, my blood, by my will it is done.”
The Satanic Temple, based in Salem, Mass., says that after it submitted the artwork to Lamar Advertising, Lamar rejected all four proposed designs. Lamar’s contract says that they may reject or remove any billboard that is not “in good taste and in line with the moral standards of the individual communities in which it is to be displayed.”
Lamar informed the Satanic Temple that all of the content was objectionable. The Satanic Temple alleges that Lamar engaged in religious discrimination, acted in bad faith and deprived it of the ability to advertise its religious abortion ritual because Lamar “holds a monopoly” over much of the U.S. billboard market.
“While it is understandable to be concerned with forcing a private entity to engage in speech or conduct it objects to, this scenario is different,” said Lucien Greaves, co-founder of The Satanic Temple. “Lamar initially agreed to work with us and their rejection appears to be religiously based. In addition, they have a virtual monopoly in certain regions. In this way, Lamar is able to regulate public speech and they are not permitted to selectively exclude religious voices they object to.”
AL.com has contacted Lamar, but officials did not immediately comment.