LifeFaith and Religion


Nativity scene, Satanic Temple display spark controversy at Capitol

Religious displays are popping up inside the Iowa Capitol, causing debate on whether they should be allowed.
A prayer service inside the Iowa Capitol Building.
Posted at 1:33 PM, Dec 15, 2023

Amid a battle over using religious displays inside the State Capitol, the Satanic Temple Iowa reported that its statehouse display has been vandalized. 

The Satanic Temple erected its display as a Nativity scene was installed at the Statehouse. Both displays have prompted questions over whether religious symbols should be allowed on state property. 

"The Satanic Temple Iowa is proud to participate in the festivities at our Capitol this holiday season," the group said in a statement. "Our display features the 7 Tenets, a set of seven core beliefs that members see as their guideposts for our deeply held beliefs." 

On Thursday, the group reported that one of its statues was destroyed beyond repair. 

"We are proud to continue our holiday display for the next few days that we have been allotted," the Satanic Temple said in response to the vandalism. 

Meanwhile, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds held a prayer vigil at the Capitol on Tuesday. 

"Faithful Iowans gathered in the Capitol rotunda to display the Nativity and pray for peace," she said. "Free speech is a right afforded to all. But how we use it matters. Today’s event is proof that in the battle between good and evil, good will always prevail."

The displays have caused some to say all displays should be welcome, while others say none should be. And there are some who say the Satanic Temple's display should be excluded.

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The ACLU of Iowa noted, "When the government opens up its facilities to outside use, it cannot discriminate based on religious beliefs."

The issue of religious displays in the state Capitol has even become a campaign issue for the presidential hopefuls. Republican Vivek Ramaswamy told Iowa voters that he disagrees with the Satanic Temple's display but the display should be protected. 

"We have free speech rights in this country," he said. Free speech is the speech, not just that we love but that we hate. That's what it protects. So I'm never for banning speech."

But a Republican lawmaker disagrees and cites the Iowa Constitution, which says, "We the people of the state of Iowa, grateful to the supreme being for the blessings hitherto enjoyed, and feeling our dependence on him for a continuation of those blessings, do ordain and establish a free and independent government, by the name of the state of Iowa."

"For those who wish to worship Satan, they are free to do so on their private property. But to allow satanic expression in the State Capitol and other public property is to surrender to Satan’s demands for equality with God," state Rep. Brad Sherman wrote in a newsletter to constituents.