Michael Cassidy, a 35-year-old Navy veteran and former congressional candidate from Mississippi, was charged with a hate crime on Tuesday for beheading a Satanic statue displayed in the Iowa State Capitol last month.
Initially arrested for fourth-degree criminal mischief, Cassidy’s charge has been elevated to third-degree criminal mischief, a class D felony, due to the estimated repair costs of $750 to $1,500 and new evidence suggesting a hate crime under Iowa’s statute.
Lynn Hicks, a spokesperson for the Polk County Attorney’s Office, stated that evidence showed Cassidy destroyed the property because of the victim’s religion.
“Evidence shows the defendant made statements to law enforcement and the public indicating he destroyed the property because of the victim’s religion,” said Hicks.
This statement aligns with Cassidy’s own remarks to The Republic Sentinel in December, where he expressed outrage at the Satanic display, citing his adherence to Christian beliefs and opposition to what he perceived as anti-Christian values.
The Satanic Temple of Iowa had legally obtained permission to place the Baphomet statue in the capitol building, where it was situated near Nativity displays during the Christmas holiday. Cassidy’s actions were motivated by his belief that such displays contradict Christian values and the founding principles of the U.S.
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds publicly opposed the Satanic statue but advocated for a peaceful response, emphasizing the importance of free speech and calling for prayer over the Capitol.
“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,” Reynolds said.
In response to the legal proceedings, a GiveSendGo campaign was set up for Cassidy’s legal defense, raising over $90,000. Cassidy’s case has sparked debate around the boundaries of religious expression, hate crimes, and the intersection of personal beliefs with public actions.
“It is now apparently against the law to hate the prince of hate himself,” remarked Dr. Jordan Peterson in response to the charge.
It is now apparently against the law to hate the prince of hate himself.
— Dr Jordan B Peterson (@jordanbpeterson) January 31, 2024
“It was never mentioned that the trans Nashville shooter who specifically targeted Christian children committed a hate crime, but knocking over a statue of Satan is. America has fallen and we’re left to pay the price,” said conservative activist and athlete Riley Gaines.