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DES MOINES, Iowa (LifeSiteNews) — Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds on Tuesday spoke out against the “absolutely objectionable” satanic display at the Iowa State Capitol but stopped short of ordering its removal. Her comments came after a Republican congressman urged her to take it down while another suggested the satanic group that set it up was within its rights and that government shouldn’t discriminate based on religion or ideology.

On December 2, the Satanic Temple of Iowa set up a “holiday satanic display” in the state capitol building in Des Moines. KCCI Des Moines described the exhibit as featuring “a ram’s head covered with mirrors on a mannequin cloaked in red clothing.”

The display is set to remain at the Capitol through December 15, according to local NBC affiliate WHO 13 Des Moines.

“Like many Iowans, I find the Satanic Temple’s display in the Capitol absolutely objectionable,” Reynolds said in a December 12 statement after social media backlash and a public request from Republican Rep. Brad Sherman to remove the “blasphemous display.”

However, Reynolds argued that “in a free society, the best response to objectionable speech is more speech.” 

She urged “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.” 

In an X post later Tuesday, Reynolds shared that “faithful Iowans gathered in the Capitol rotunda to display the Nativity and pray for peace.”

“Free speech is a right afforded to all. But how we use it matters,” she said. “Today’s event is proof that in the battle between good and evil, good will always prevail.”

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Reynolds’ statement and participation in the prayer event came after Rep. Sherman argued in a December 8 public letter that the governor should order the removal of the satanic exhibit because it offends God and runs afoul of the Iowa state constitution.

“It is a tortured and twisted interpretation of law that affords Satan, who is universally understood to be the enemy of God, religious expression equal to God in an institution of government that depends upon God for continued blessings,” Sherman said. 

He cited the preamble of the state constitution that recognizes one God (Supreme Being) from Whom blessings derive and upon Whom the people depend. 

“[T]o allow satanic expression in the State Capitol and other public property is to surrender to Satan’s demands for equality with God which was his original sin,” the congressman said. “If we want the blessings of God upon our state, we must demonstrate by our laws and actions that we are indeed depending upon Him and that we are opposed to Satan.”

Sherman said the satanic exhibit should be taken down and that legislation should be advanced to ban future satanic displays and permit the establishment of Ten Commandments displays at state-run institutions, including the Capitol and public schools.

Rather than taking Sherman up on his call to take down the monument, however, Reynolds’s statement is similar in content to remarks made by another Republican congressman, who suggested the exhibit, while “objectionable,” is protected speech and that the government should not intervene.

In a post on X, Republican Rep. Jon Dunwell, a Christian pastor, said the exhibit is “evil” and “stands in direct opposition to my faith.” However, he said anyone can set up a display at the Capitol by going through a normal application process that doesn’t discriminate based on religion or ideology, and that the satanic monument is not affiliated with the State of Iowa.

“The Iowa Legislature can set the rules and standards for any display,” he explained. “The current operating principle has been to either allow all displays or none. The Legislature has the power to change it if they deem necessary.”

“My faith is never imposed upon others, nor should it ever become a direct part of government,” Dunwell said. “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.”

He said that “as a follower of Christ, I certainly find a display from the Satanic Temple objectionable.” However, he added that, “as an Iowan and a State Representative, I don’t want the state evaluating and making determinations about religions. I am guided by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”

Dunwell argued that the “primary response required” for Christians “is prayer,” and said the display is an opportunity to show the difference between Christ and Satan. He also said the exhibit’s existence makes it obvious that “Iowa needs Jesus,” and called for more religious displays at the Capitol.

He added that he will use his position as a state representative to “review the guidelines to ensure they represent our constitutional rights,” “[m]onitor… the number of organizations requesting displays,” and “[c]ontinue to dialogue with other elected officials and Iowans on this issue.

“If the government picks and chooses religious expressions, someday they will use it against Christian expressions,” he said in response to a commenter who criticized his response.

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For its part, the Satanic Temple Iowa, a local chapter of the national Satanic Temple, said in a Monday statement that it’s “proud to participate in the festivities at our Capitol this holiday season” and said its exhibit depicts its core tenets of belief. 

The satanic group also thanked the Capitol staff and associated individuals for “holding fast to the principle of religious freedom and ensuring all religions have an equal opportunity to celebrate the holidays together.”

As LifeSiteNews has previously reported, The Satanic Temple has frequently made headlines for its public attacks on Christianity, especially Catholicism, in the public square. The group and its local chapters have often injected themselves into national headlines for engaging in controversial and blasphemous activities, including the promotion of transgender ideology and the defense of abortion as a “religious ritual.”