Michael Cassidy said that his Christian faith compelled him to destroy the “blasphemous” effigy
A failed Republican Congressional candidate from Mississippi has been charged with criminal mischief for destroying a statue of the pagan idol Baphomet in the Iowa State Capitol. Satanists argue that their symbols are protected by the US Constitution.
Michael Cassidy of Lauderdale, Mississippi, was arrested on Thursday and charged with fourth-degree criminal mischief after he beheaded and toppled the goat-headed effigy, the Iowa Department of Public Safety said on Friday. He faces a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a $2,560 fine if convicted.
Clad in a crimson robe and surrounded by prayer candles, the statue depicted a figure with a man’s body and a horned goat’s head holding a wicker pentacle. Baphomet is commonly associated with occultism and Satanism, and the display was erected by the Satanic Temple, a registered religious group that took advantage of state rules allowing different religions to display their symbols in the capitol over the Christmas period.
“I saw this blasphemous statue and was outraged,” Cassidy told The Sentinel, a conservative news site. “The world may tell Christians to submissively accept the legitimization of Satan, but none of the founders would have considered government sanction of Satanic altars inside Capitol buildings as protected by the First Amendment.”
“My conscience is held captive to the word of God, not to bureaucratic decree. And so I acted,” he said.
Republican lawmakers and Christian activists had called for the statue’s removal before it was destroyed, but Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds,a Republican, insisted that she was bound by the US Constitution to leave it in place.
“Like many Iowans, I find the Satanic Temple’s display in the Capitol absolutely objectionable,” Reynolds said in a statement on Tuesday. “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.”
Although the Satanic Temple is a registered religious group, it does not promote the worship of deities such as Baphomet. Its members are mostly atheists who campaign for secular government, and for liberal causes such as abortion and LGBT rights.
Cassidy ran a primary campaign against US Representative Michael Guest in 2022, and came within 300 votes of beating the incumbent Republican. A runoff election was then triggered, which Guest won with 70% of the vote. According to his campaign website, Cassidy served as a fighter pilot in the US Navy and is a “Christian conservative who loves our nation and is committed to preserving the blessings of liberty bestowed upon us by the Founding generation.”
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