Skip to main content

Satanic Temple Sets up 'Holiday Display' in Iowa Capitol: 'A Very Dark, Evil Force'

Share This article

The Satanic Temple (TST) has sparked yet another controversy, this time by setting up a holiday display inside the Iowa State Capitol Building in Des Moines that has drawn backlash from lawmakers and the public.

The display features multiple Satanic symbols including a ram's head covered with mirror-like material placed on a mannequin dressed in a dark-red cloak. It holds a pentangle displayed with red and black ribbons. The figure stands behind a box or altar containing rows of electric candles featuring the TST logo. 

The TST's display will remain in the state capitol through Friday, Dec. 15, according to KCCI-TV

Lucien Greaves, a spokesman and co-founder of TST, told the outlet the display is a symbol of its right to religious freedom. 

"We're going to really relish the opportunity to be represented in a public forum. We don't have a church on every street corner," Greaves said.

He told KCCI if people don't like the display, they don't have to look at it. 

"If people don't like our display in public forums, they don't have to engage with them. They don't have to view them," he said. 

***Please sign up for CBN Newsletters and download the CBN News app to ensure you keep receiving the latest news from a distinctly Christian perspective.*** 

slider img 2The website Church Leaders reports when Shellie Flockhart heard about the display, she organized a prayer group near the Christmas tree inside the capitol. 

Flockhart told the outlet the display was "a very dark, evil force" and a reminder that "spiritual warfare is real." 

"There are evil, satanic forces that are trying to infiltrate our state," she added. 

One Iowa lawmaker has even called on Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds to remove the display from the building, according to the Des Moines Register. Rep. Brad Sherman has also called for legislation that prohibits satanic displays in the Capitol building and all state property. 

Reynolds called the TST's display in the capitol "absolutely objectionable" and said, "the best response to objectionable speech is more speech."

"Like many Iowans, I find the Satanic Temple's display in the Capitol absolutely objectionable," Gov. Reynolds said in a statement. "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."

Iowa State Rep. Jon Dunwell (R), a pastor, also spoke about the TST's display in several social media posts. 

In one lengthy post to the platform X, Dunwell wrote, "As many of you have become aware, last week a display was erected at the Iowa Capitol by the Satanic Temple of Iowa.  As I have responded to concerns from Iowans about the display, I wanted to share with you how the display came to be and my response."

He also included a photo of the TST's display in his post. 

Dunwell, who represents the 38th district in the Iowa House, explained how the TST was allowed to put up the display following the guidelines the legislature sets for organizations. 

"The Satanic Temple petitioned for their display in August and were approved with some modification. They wanted to use an actual goat head (I'm assuming a skull) and were prohibited from doing so," he wrote. 

Dunwell also included his observations as an Iowan, a state representative, and a pastor. 

"My observation as a follower of Christ, I certainly find a display from the Satanic Temple objectionable. It stands in direct opposition to my faith and would be classified as evil.  Not a new experience for me or my family. The Word of God continually warns about the dangers in our world. In fairness, many other religions or non-religious people have the same perspective about Christianity," he said. 

Dunwell also told his followers, "I don't want the state evaluating and making determinations about religions.  I am guided by the First Amendment of the US Constitution."

He also told Iowans not to fear the display. 

"The display is an inanimate object that has no real power in and of itself.  We have nothing to fear," Dunwell said. 

As a Christian, he noted, "The primary response required is prayer. The display itself is an invitation of the work we have yet to do."

"Iowa needs Jesus," Dunwell wrote. "My faith is never imposed upon others, nor should it ever become a direct part of government.  It is always a response to the person and work of Jesus Christ. I don't want to mix the kingdoms! Government is a poor arbitrator of religion."

State Rep. Steve Holt, a Republican who represents the 12th District told the Des Moines Register he believes Iowans have the right to disagree about religion. 

"We also have the federal constitution, we have the Bill of Rights, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, (which) are just foundational values of our country… So while I totally hold a total disdain anything that this organization stands for, I nonetheless believe they have the constitutionally protected right to put up the display," he said.

Holt told the outlet he has seen many atheist displays as well as Nativity scenes set up at the capitol.  In fact, a nativity scene will be installed at the Capitol this week. 

"I think this is a test," Holt said regarding the TST's display. "I think this is really a test of just how, how strong your allegiance is to the Constitution and the concepts of free speech and free religion. It's easy to say you believe in those things when the speech is not that objectionable to you. But when the speech is really, really highly objectionable and offensive unless it otherwise breaks the law, are you going to stand up for the constitutional rights of others or are you not?"

As CBN News has reported, TST claims to be a "nontheistic" group that doesn't believe in a literal Satan, worship Satan, or proselytize. The organization sponsors After School Satan Clubs targeting public schools that have Good News Clubs meeting after school.

Share This article

About The Author

Steve Warren is a senior multimedia producer for CBN News. Warren has worked in the news departments of television stations and cable networks across the country. In addition, he also worked as a producer-director in television production and on-air promotion. A Civil War historian, he authored the book The Second Battle of Cabin Creek: Brilliant Victory. It was the companion book to the television documentary titled Last Raid at Cabin Creek currently streaming on Amazon Prime. He holds an M.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and a B.A. in Communication from the University of