U.S. Briefs: Satanic statue loses its head in Iowa | WORLD
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U.S. Briefs: Satanic statue loses its head in Iowa

A former Navy pilot decapitated a horned demon statue displayed in the state Capitol

Jon Dunwell, Iowa House of Representatives / Facebook

U.S. Briefs: Satanic statue loses its head in Iowa
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Fact Box Sources: U.S. Census Bureau and World Atlas


A former Navy pilot vandalized a satanic display at the state Capitol in Des Moines on Dec. 14. Michael Cassidy turned himself in to police after decapitating the human-sized statue of Baphomet, a horned demon used in some satanic worship practices. The Satanic Temple of Iowa constructed the display in opposition to a Nativity scene also on exhibit, prompting outrage among those who called the statue inappropriate at any time but especially at Christmas. The Iowa Department of Public Safety charged 35-year-old Cassidy, a former Mississippi congressional candidate, with fourth-degree criminal mischief. If convicted, he faces a year in prison and a $2,560 fine. On his campaign website, Cassidy calls himself “a Christian conservative who loves our nation and is committed to preserving the blessings of liberty bestowed upon us by the Founding generation.” While presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis praised Cassidy, others wondered if his crime spells trouble for future religious expression in the public square. —Kim Henderson


The Wyoming Department of Corrections transferred 240 inmates to a ­private prison in northwest Mississippi at the end of November. Officials said they made the transfers to temporarily address staffing shortages. According to the department, about a quarter of its uniformed staff positions are vacant, most at the Wyoming State Peniten­tiary and the Wyoming Women’s Center, which has 81 open ­positions. Authorities also moved nearly 50 inmates to two in-state county detention facilities. Lawmakers will hold a ­budget meeting in February to discuss a replacement revenue source for federal relief dollars that helped fund the agency for the last two years. Inmates could return once staffing levels improve. —Lauren Canterberry


State officials are moving ahead with plans for a memorial to aborted babies. On Dec. 12, the state’s Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission voted to recommend a design featuring a living wall of flora and fauna. In March, the Arkansas Legislature authorized the secretary of state to place a “memorial to the unborn” on the grounds of the state Capitol, funded by private donations. The commission received nine design proposals, with Arkansas artist Lakey Goff proposing the living wall. Secretary of State John Thurston will make the final design decision. In 2019, Arkansas banned abortion in all cases except to save the life of the mother. The law went into effect when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022. —Emma Freire

Mike McCleary/The Bismarck Tribune/AP

North Dakota

A petition for a constitutional measure that would require all election ballots to be hand-counted could soon start circulating among North Dakota voters. The measure, the Election Integrity Act Initiative, would also eliminate early voting, require ballots to be counted the day of the election, and provide more precinct-level oversight. Backers of the petition aim to get the measure on the June primary ballot, though they’re still far from gathering the needed 31,164 signatures by the Feb. 12 deadline. If implemented, the measure would mean big changes: In North Dakota’s November 2022 election, nearly 44 percent of voters ­participated by early voting or used mail-in ballots. Republican state Rep. Jeff Hoverson said the measure’s proposed precinct-level controls are a needed “move away from the machine and the mail-in ballots.” But election administrators in several of the state’s largest counties expressed concerns about hand-counting’s lack of efficiency and potential for error. —Elizabeth Russell

Colorado Natural Resources/AP


Nearly a century after being eradicated from the Colorado mountains, gray wolves are now roaming the Centennial State. In 2020, voters approved a ballot measure requiring the state to begin reintroducing wolves by 2023. The five wolves released in December were originally from Oregon. Colorado Parks and Wildlife outfitted the animals with GPS collars before releasing them. Gov. Jared Polis and many urbanites championed the plan, but residents in rural Colorado expressed concern for their livestock. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will seek to minimize potential damages by compensating ranchers up to $15,000 per animal killed in a wolf attack. Polis vetoed a bill in May that would have allowed wildlife officials and ranchers to trap and kill wolves if needed. While lawsuits could impede ­further releases, Colorado officials plan to introduce 30 to 50 more wolves during the next few years. —Bekah McCallum


A Muslim ­family is facing charges after Nashville police say they attacked their teenage son for converting to Christianity. Officers responded to a ­welfare check on Dec. 11 after the victim’s employer reported concerns. They found a disheveled juvenile who appeared to be “cut haphazardly” with lumps on his face. The victim told police his father, mother, and brother repeatedly punched him and spat in his face. Nick Kadum, 57, Rawaa Khawaji, 46, and John Kadum, 29, were all charged in the incident. Arrest records show Khawaji, the mother, also scratched the back of the victim’s right hand with a knife. She was taken into custody and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Neighbor Paul Levine said the boy often talked with him about his church and Christian faith, but no one in the neighborhood knew the parents well. Apostasy is considered a capital crime in some Muslim ­cultures. —Kim Henderson


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