Well, This Satanic Display in State Capitol Didn't Last Long

Ex-House candidate vandalizes representation of pagan idol erected by local Satanic Temple in Iowa
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 15, 2023 12:53 PM CST
Well, This Satanic Display in State Capitol Didn't Last Long
A damaged Satanic display is shown at the Iowa state Capitol on Friday in Des Moines, Iowa.   (AP Photo/Scott McFetridge)

A controversial display erected in the state Capitol by the Satanic Temple of Iowa has been vandalized, after an earlier outcry about its presence in the government building, reports KCRG. "This morning, we were informed by authorities that the Baphomet statue in our holiday display was destroyed beyond repair," the group wrote Thursday on Facebook of the damage done to the representation of the pagan idol, described by the Des Moines Register as a "robed effigy with a gilded ram's head holding a ribbon-bedecked pentangle."

Arrested in the case: former Mississippi congressional candidate Michael Cassidy, 35, who was charged Thursday with criminal mischief, according to the state's Department of Public Safety. Cassidy remained defiant after his alleged actions. "To Christians who defend Satanic altars when they speak with their church, family, friends, coworkers, or on @X: Would you use the same argument if you were speaking with God?" he wrote online. "Think on that." Condemnation for the vandalism came from, among other corners, the head of Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers.

"When our leaders make it permissible to destroy religious—or nonreligious—displays they find religiously objectionable, they are abdicating their responsibility to safeguard the freedom of expression of the citizens they represent," Jason Bennell wrote in a release, per the Register. Iowa GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds conceded she didn't love the display, but also that it had a right to be there, under state laws surrounding religious displays in the state Capitol. "In a free society, the best response to objectionable speech is more speech, and I encourage all those of faith to join me today in praying over the Capitol and recognizing the Nativity scene that will be on display—the true reason for the season," she said.

story continues below

Meanwhile, a high-profile name is going to bat for Cassidy from more than a thousand miles away, per the Hill. "Satan has no place in our society and should not be recognized as a 'religion' by the federal government," Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida wrote on X on Friday. "I'll chip in to contribute to this veteran's legal defense fund." Per Newsweek, the fund raised $20,000 before being suspended. If convicted, Cassidy could see a $2,500-plus fine and a year in prison. As for the now-damaged display, the group notes, per the Register: "We are proud to continue our holiday display for the next few days that we have been allotted." (A Tennessee school faces backlash after permitting an After School Satan Club to meet there.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.