Here we go again: Banning is not the solution


I really should not be surprised by some comments that represent what passes for civic dialogue in Iowa these days.
The latest example leaves me shaking my head, not just at the events themselves but at the reactions. Mrs. Gentry, my history and government teacher in high school, would be dismayed by intelligent people misunderstanding one of the foundations upon which the United States was established — that foundation being the desire of people for intellectual freedom.
How I wish I could still drop by the Gentry home, park myself on Mrs. G’s couch and dive into an in-depth conversation with her and Mr. G about the events that transpired in recent days at the Iowa Capitol. Some people’s mistaken notion of what religious freedom involves has brought the spotlight to Iowa from as far away as Great Britain’s BBC.
The trigger for all of this attention was the decision by the Satanic Temple of Iowa to temporarily erect a small altar with candles and a caped, ram’s-head figure representing the pagan idol Baphomet. The display was off the Capitol rotunda next to the grand staircase, not far from where another group placed the traditional Christian nativity scene.
Faster than you could slide down a chimney, controversy boiled up.
Some politicians, including Republican presidential contender Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor, called on state officials to remove the display.
One member of the Iowa Legislature, Rep. Brad Sherman, a Williamsburg pastor, urged adoption of legislation next session that would keep satanic symbols such the Baphomet display out of the Capitol, the icon of Iowa’s democracy. Sherman called the display blasphemous.
“For those who wish to worship Satan, they are free to do so on their private property,” he wrote in his newsletter, the Sherman Liberty Letter.
“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 wrote.
Other politicians weighed in in ways Mrs. G would have found to be more in sync with our First Amendment rights.
Rep. Jon Dunwell, a Republican lawmaker from Newton, also is a minister. He called the Satanic Temple display objectionable, but he added a cautionary note.
Writing on Facebook, Dunwell said: “I don’t want the state evaluating and making determinations about religions. I am guided by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. … I would rather have an evil blasphemous display or no display at all than have the state dictate what they think is appropriate. Shocked so many want to give up their freedom so they don’t have to see a display they disagree with.”
Governor Reynolds took a reasonable stand on the display, although she could have been more straightforward in her defense of equal treatment by state government of various forms of religious expression.
Reynolds said in a statement, “Like many Iowans, I find the Satanic Temple’s display in the Capitol absolutely objectionable. 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.”
The First Amendment rights belong to all people. They are not just available to those who follow a particular religion or believe a certain way or say things the same way we might.
Intellectual freedom does not mean a vocal segment of society should be able to silence a smaller segment for having the temerity to think differently or believe differently or worship differently or want to read books that others dislike.
Sometimes in a country built on intellectual freedom and freedom of expression, we may be offended by what we hear or what we see. Mrs. G’s eyes would twinkle when she reminded me of that fact of life during those comfy couch conversations many years ago.
The controversy over the Satanic Temple vandalism illustrates our divided times in another way, too:
Michael Cassidy, 35, of Lauderdale, Miss., was charged Thursday with fourth-degree criminal mischief for demolishing the Baphomet statue and tossing its head in a Capitol trash can. If found guilty, he faces up to one year in prison and a $2,500 fine.
By week’s end, like-minded people around the United States had donated $40,000 to his legal defense fund.
Randy Evans can be reached at DMRevans2810@gmail.com.

Randy Evans, commentary, editorial, opinion, pen city Current, free speech, religion, state capitol, Iowa, news, events, expression,


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  • triryche3

    “For those who wish to worship Satan, they are free to do so on their private property."

    Same could be said about "God". But that's different because he's used in law's, albeit illegally!

    Wednesday, December 20, 2023 Report this

  • Truthbomb

    The audacity of the self described Christians never fails to make me laugh. I'm not sure what history they read about, but I'm pretty sure the white immigration to this country happened in large part to get away from religious tyranny. Yet here they are, doing their damnedest to try to instill exactly that.

    If I had to pick an organized "religion" on the pain of death, I would pick one that has tenets that promote compassion for all creatures, the pursuit of justice for all above all else, one's body is inviolable, to encroach on the freedom of one is to forego one's own freedom, humans are fallible-accountability for ones mistakes is paramount, science should not be twisted to conform to ones beliefs...and those things do not come from the foundation of the christian religions, but from those of the Satanic Temple.

    Michelle Scott---who will be proudly wearing her union made, disco Baphomet shirt out and about in SEIowa

    Friday, December 22, 2023 Report this