I am not a Satanist. I need to start with that statement because, thanks to the fear Christian privilege thrives on, people run away from mere mentions of Satanism. As my goals here are to educate and make a point, I want you to keep reading.
This is my point: Satanism is not a threat; Christian privilege is.
As a sociologist, I want to educate you because understanding other people’s belief systems is paramount to our humanity and to protecting our constitutional rights. When we are ignorant of others’ belief systems, we spread harm. We may not do this knowingly. I’m not saying everyone who is uninformed about Satanism or any other non-dominant belief system is malicious. What I’m saying is that ignorance leads to prejudice, which is the weed that grows into discrimination, hate, and violence.
In a time where tens of thousands have died because of religious violence, we need to do better. That starts by acknowledging the existence of Christian privilege and the insidiousness that it brings.
Case in point: At the Iowa Capitol, there is a temporary Satanic altar on display. Its mere existence has been the topic of the week here. One state representative, Brad Sherman, wants it gone because Iowa’s Constitution states that we’re “grateful to the Supreme Being.” Sherman argues that Satan “is universally understood to be the enemy of God.” He also proposes future legislation to ban “satanic displays” on government property.
Putting aside Sherman’s definitions of both God and Satan that are dripping with Christian privilege, he’s wrong. Satanists don’t worship Satan.
This isn’t difficult to learn. Even if you object to visiting the Church of Satan’s website, it’s in the Wikipedia entry: “Members do not believe that Satan literally exists and do not worship him.” Had Sherman even an ounce of curiosity rather than the arrogance of blind faith, he’d probably agree with at least one of the seven tenets printed on the altar sitting in the lobby of his workplace. Instead, he reacted out of ignorant fear rather than understanding, learning, and respecting differences. That’s not appropriate for an elected official.
Worse, the ban Sherman proposes is unconstitutional, which is horrid considering his responsibility to respect the very law of the land he claims he’s trying to uphold.
To her credit, Iowa’s Governor, Kim Reynolds—Kimmy, Covid Kim, Kim Reaper—did not acquiesce to Sherman’s request for removal. In fact, she said, “In a free society, the best response to objectionable speech is more speech.” While debatable, I respect that statement.
However, she quietly ignored Sherman’s proposed ban and said this: “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.”
That, friends, is Christian privilege on a gross, discriminatory, and selfish level.
Gov. Reaper recognized freedom of speech but also endorsed a specific religious symbol as truth. She threw an actual freedom under the bus for one that does not exist: Christian rights over others. No, the freedom of religion does not mean you, elected officials, get to endorse one specific religion and ban another from government property.
The phrase “religious freedom” does not mean carte blanche over the law.
Considering the Reynolds administration changed the state slogan to “Freedom to Flourish,” it’d almost be laughable to watch the Iowa legislature try to ban Satanism from government property, except for it posing a massive threat to the nearly 25% of Iowans who do not identify as Christian. Iowa’s legislature is a fan of slippery slope excuses to do whatever they want.
What conservatives in Iowa and the rest of the country are doing is the real panderverse, and it continues to hurt anyone who refuses to give in to Christian privilege or accept Christianity as the law. Knowing Kimmy’s record for restricting freedoms, I’m not feeling great about the 2024 legislative session. Frankly, I’m terrified for my fellow Iowans in the upcoming year.