Mississippi resident Michael Cassidy was charged with a hate crime on Tuesday for his admitted role in destroying a Satanic statue erected as a Christmas decoration in the Iowa State Capitol last month. Cassidy, a Navy veteran and devout Christian, now faces felony charges of criminal mischief for violating the Satanic Temple’s constitutionally protected “individual rights” when he smashed and beheaded the statue.

As Valuetainment previously reported, the Satanic Temple sparked outrage throughout the state of Iowa in early December by setting up a shrine to the goat-headed demon Baphomet in the state capitol building alongside the traditional religious Christmas displays. The temple, despite its name, does not actually worship the demonic figure from scripture. Rather, its members view Satan’s literary persona as an example of radical individualism and rebellion against tyranny, and the group considers itself fundamentally nontheistic.

According to the Iowa Department of Administrative Services, the group followed the same application process as all the other religious and nonreligious groups that contributed to the annual Christmas displays, making it subject to the same rules and entitled to the same protections.

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Despite considerable public objection—including from sources as high up as Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds—state officials reported that nothing could be done to remove the statue given the Satanic Temple’s right to free speech.

But upon hearing about the offending display, Michael Cassidy, a retired Navy pilot who previously ran for a congressional seat in his home state of Mississippi, crossed state lines to take matters into his own hands. After entering the Iowa Capitol, Cassidy tore down the statue, removed its head, and threw the pieces into a trash can, then immediately turned himself in to police.

Christian Navy veteran Michael Cassidy was charged with a hate crime for smashing and beheading a statue set up by the Satanic Temple in the Iowa Statehouse.

A Facebook post from the Satanic Temple said that “justice [was] being pursued the correct way, through legal means,” and then concluded with “Happy Holidays! Hail Satan!”

Cassidy was initially charged with fourth-degree criminal mischief, but those charges were increased on Tuesday to third-degree criminal mischief, a class D felony, based on his “violation of individual rights” under Iowa’s hate crime statute.

“Evidence shows the defendant made statements to law enforcement and the public indicating he destroyed the property because of the victim’s religion,” said Polk County Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Lynn Hicks, according to the Des Moines Register.

The court further indicated that repairs to the statue would likely cost between $750 and $1,500. An independent estimate from the Satanic Temple, known for being aggressively litigious, put it much higher at $3,000.

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“I saw this blasphemous statue and was outraged,” Cassidy told The Republic Sentinel after he was released the following day. “My conscience is held captive to the word of God, not to bureaucratic decree. And so I acted.”

He continued:

They may think it’s a joke that they triggered us but the devil is real and we have to be ready…

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. Anti-Christian values have steadily been mainstreamed more and more in recent decades, and Christians have largely acted like the proverbial frog in the boiling pot of water.

Michael Cassidy will return to court for arraignment on February 15th. A GiveSendGo campaign for his legal defense fund has already raised $90,000 and drawn additional pledges from high-profile conservatives and religious activists.

Connor Walcott is a staff writer for Valuetainment.com. Follow Connor on X and look for him on VT’s “The Unusual Suspects.”

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