Satanic Temple Altar At The Iowa State Capitol Has Republicans Seething

Controversy has arisen in Iowa after the Satanic Temple was allowed to put up a display at the state Capitol building in Des Moines.

Outcry emerged after the un-Christian-like altar was erected on the first floor of the Iowa State Capitol earlier this month, prompting the public and lawmakers to call for its removal. Others have maintained keeping the shrine up is a matter of free speech and freedom of religion, however.

The display ― which will be up through the end of this week ― includes an altar with the “seven fundamental tenets” of the Satanic Temple and the group’s seal, surrounded by electric candles.

Behind the altarpiece stands an effigy of the goat-headed idol Baphomet, a pagan deity who is invoked in various occult practices and throughout pop culture.

A mirrored sculpture of a ram’s skull sits on top of the figure, which is cloaked in red velvet, holding a black and red ribbon wreath with a pentacle in the center.

Iowa state Rep. Brad Sherman (R) objected to the “disgusting display” in a letter last week, where he argued that the altar violates Iowa’s state constitution.

A Baphomet statue erected by the Satanic Temple in Salem, Massachusetts, in 2019. The group stirred up controversy for an altar it set up at the Iowa State Capitol last week.
A Baphomet statue erected by the Satanic Temple in Salem, Massachusetts, in 2019. The group stirred up controversy for an altar it set up at the Iowa State Capitol last week.

JOSEPH PREZIOSO via Getty Images

Fellow Republican Jon Dunwell reluctantly defended the satanic setup in a detailed post on X, however.

Dunwell, an ordained minister, said that while the altar offended him “as a follower of Christ,” access to the state Capitol displays are done through an open application which does not discriminate on “the basis of religion or ideology.”

Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) called the altar “objectionable” in a Tuesday press release, but said, “In a free society, the best response to objectionable speech is more speech.” She went on to invite people of all faiths to join her in prayer at the Capitol that day.

Lucien Greaves, spokesman and co-founder of the Satanic Temple, told the Des Moines Register the piece was not intended to offend Christians, but was created to give other religions more representation in public forums.

“People assume that we’re there to insult Christians and we’re not,” Greaves said, arguing, “It’s certainly a greater evil to allow the government to pick and choose between forms of religious expression.”

After the satanic shrine made national news, Republican presidential primary candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis offered his take during a Tuesday night town hall held by CNN ahead of next month’s Iowa caucus.

He blamed President Donald Trump for giving the Satanic Temple religious tax-exempt status in 2019, saying, “It very well may be because of that ruling under Donald Trump that they may have had a legal leg to stand on. My view would be that’s not a religion that the Founding Fathers were trying to create.”

This isn’t the first time The Satanic Temple has tested the limits of religious freedom on government property.

In 2013, they attempted to get an eight-foot-tall Baphomet sculpture installed at the Oklahoma state Capitol in response to a monument of the Ten Commandments on its grounds. The biblical monument was later removed.

The group revived the stunt five years later when they took the statue to Little Rock to protest a set of commandments being placed on the grounds of the Arkansas state Capitol.

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