A proposed bill would ban public displays of Satan worship in Iowa, stemming from the display of a pagan idol that was put up late last year at the Statehouse in Des Moines.

No More Satan In Public, Says Iowans

A Senate committee gave preliminary approval Wednesday to a bill that would ban satanic displays on public grounds, following an often-testy debate over whether Satanism is a religion to be respected or a “desecration of public property.”

During the 30-minute public hearing, about 20 people identified themselves as atheists or members of the Satanic Temple and as opponents of the bill. Crowd members occasionally responded to their speakers with “Hail, Satan.” They could be heard jeering at Hoffman’s defense of the bill, and voices were raised on both sides as the hearing moved toward a vote.

The Reject Escalating Satanism by Preserving Essential Core Traditions, or RESPECT Act, would ban “satanic memorials, statues, altars, or displays, or any other method of representing or honoring Satan” on public property.

In arguing for Senate Bill 1279 Republican state Sen. Jake Hoffman said, “It is a desecration of our public property in the United States of America and in the state of Arizona for a satanic display, memorial, altar, etc., to be on public property.”

Opponents, including Satanists who testified against the bill, called it a clear violation of their freedom of religion rights. Hoffman disagreed. “It is legally and constitutionally suspect to argue that Satan, someone who is universally known to be an explicit enemy of God, is somehow a religion. I mean, that is an absolutely ludicrous statement to make,” he said.

Micah Mangione, a representative for the Freedom from Religion Association, said he thinks the bill is more about targeting a religion than it is about preventing the desecration of public property. He said that could eventually lead to restricting expression on all religions except “traditional Christianity.”

The bill’s next stop is the Senate floor. If it passes there, it would go to the House.

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