Veteran Who Damaged Satanic Statue Charged With Hate Crime

Michael Cassidy, a Navy veteran from Mississippi, faces felony hate crime charges following his decision to dismantle a Satanic statue at Iowa’s State Capitol. The December 15 event sparked a heated debate about religious expression, vandalism and now the interpretation and application of hate crime statutes.

Cassidy, a Christian and former congressional candidate, admitted to beheading the statue, leading to his initial charge of fourth-degree criminal mischief. However, as the Polk County Attorney’s Office cites the act as “in violation of individual rights” under Iowa’s hate crime statute, the charge was elevated to third-degree criminal mischief, a Class D felony. If convicted, Cassidy could face significant fines and imprisonment.

The Satanic Temple’s display, which had been legally permitted in the state capitol, included a Baphomet statue, a symbol often associated with Satanism. The veteran’s actions directly responded to this display, which he deemed blasphemous. “My conscience is held captive to the word of God, not to bureaucratic decree. And so I acted,” Cassidy stated. His actions, while controversial, reflect a deeply held conviction, a sentiment shared by many in the conservative community.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) have publicly voiced their objections to the Satanic display. Reynolds encouraged Iowans to respond with more speech, highlighting the nativity scene as “the true reason for the season.” DeSantis, demonstrating solidarity, offered to assist with Cassidy’s legal fees, underscoring the sentiment that Satanism should not be legally recognized as a religion.

The conservative community on social media platforms, like X, formerly known as Twitter, has been vocal in supporting Cassidy. Users have pointed to instances where statues of historical figures were torn down without hate crime charges, contrasting sharply with Cassidy’s situation.

Libs of TikTok posted on Wednesday, “Violent activists tore down dozens of statues including Columbus, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington. None were held accountable or charged with a hate crime. Michael Cassidy knocks over a Satan statue made out of household items and gets charged with a hate crime. Welcome to America’s 2-tier-justice system. The police state made it clear who they worship. Wokeness and Satanism is the new religion.”

This sentiment was echoed by the Redheaded Libertarian, who remarked, “America: where tearing down statues is stunning and brave unless it’s a Satan statue, then it’s a hate crime.” and X user Spitfire, who wrote, “We are at the point in the matrix where defacing and tearing down statues of our nation’s founders and heroes is honorable but beheading a statue of Satan is a hate crime. What planet am I on?”  

Cassidy’s response to the Satanic display raises fundamental questions about the limits of free speech and the role of religious expression in public spaces. While his actions are undoubtedly illegal under vandalism laws, the added layer of a hate crime charge adds complexity to the case. It challenges the boundaries of what constitutes a hate crime and whether actions taken against inanimate religious symbols fall under this category.

Support for Cassidy has been significant, with a GiveSendGo page already raising more than $107,000 as of Wednesday afternoon to support his legal defense.  

As Cassidy awaits his next hearing on February 15, the case continues to stir discussions nationwide. It underscores the ongoing tensions between different religious beliefs and interpretations of what constitutes hate speech versus freedom of expression. 

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