Former congressional candidate charged with hate crime for destroying Satanic Temple display at Iowa Capitol

Iowa prosecutors charged a former Mississippi congressional candidate with a hate crime after he allegedly “destroyed beyond repair” a pagan idol monument put inside the Hawkeye State Capitol by the Satanic Temple.

Right-wing advocate Michael Cassidy told a conservative website his “conscience is held captive to the word of God,” so he took action after learning the statuette had been placed inside the Des Moines building in line with state rules allowing religious displays to be put there during the holidays

Cassidy was initially charged with a fourth-degree criminal mischief misdemeanor following his Dec. 14 outburst. But the Des Moines Register said Tuesday his actions allegedly violated the state’s hate crime statute forbidding “criminal mischief” against a person or a person’s property. The charges against him have been adjusted accordingly.

A man recites Christian prayers at a damaged Satanic display at the Iowa state Capitol on Friday, Dec. 15, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Scott McFetridge)
A man recites Christian prayers at a damaged Satanic display at the Iowa state Capitol on Friday, Dec. 15, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Scott McFetridge)

A spokesman for Iowa’s Polk County Attorney’s Office said in a statement that Cassidy made comments to law enforcement indicating he destroyed the likeness of the horned deity Baphomet “because of the victim’s religion.”

Cassidy, a former military officer, previously campaigned on hardline Christian nationalist values, including putting God into “the public arena.”

Meanwhile, the Salem, Massachusetts-based Satanic Temple states on its website that it neither worships nor believes in Satan or the supernatural.

“The mission of The Satanic Temple is to encourage benevolence and empathy, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense, oppose injustice, and undertake noble pursuits,” the organization lists as its mission statement.

The Satanic Temple of Iowa said its damaged statuette can not be repaired, but praised the decision by Iowa prosecutors as a significant milestone in our journey.”

While Cassidy’s attorney declined to comment on the new charge, she previously accused the Satanic Temple of making filings that “are only meant to evoke strong emotions and incite others.”

Cassidy is scheduled to be arraigned on Feb. 15. As of Wednesday evening, he had raised more than $112,000 for his defense, according to a fundraiser on GiveSendGo. If convicted, he could face up to five years in prison.

With News Wire Services

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