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Man accused of destroying satanic display charged with hate crime

Damaged Satanic display in Iowa Capitol Associated Press/Photo by Scott McFetridge

Man accused of destroying satanic display charged with hate crime

Iowa prosecutors filed a felony hate crime charge on Tuesday against Michael Cassidy, who stands accused of defacing a Satanic Temple’s holiday display in the state’s Capitol building. Polk County prosecutors confirmed the new charge on Tuesday after Cassidy made public statements “indicating he destroyed the property because of the victim’s religion.” As a result of that statement and the amount of monetary damage Cassidy allegedly caused, prosecutors revised his previous misdemeanor charge of fourth-degree criminal mischief to third-degree criminal mischief “in violation of individual rights,” making it both a felony and a hate crime. Cassidy previously told The Sentinel, “My conscience is held captive to the word of God, not to bureaucratic decree. And so I acted.” The Mississippi man is scheduled to be arraigned on Feb. 15 and has raised over $100,000 in donations to cover his legal defense.

What was in the Satanic Temple’s holiday display? Iowa law allows religious groups to mount displays in the Capitol building during the holiday season. The Satanic Temple Iowa erected a statue of the pagan idol Baphomet, along with a table of candles and a pentagram wreath. Cassidy allegedly beheaded the statue, causing the idol to be “destroyed beyond repair,” according to the group. The Satanic Temple was founded in 2013 and describes itself as a “non-theistic religious organization.” The group called the escalation in charges “a significant milestone in The Satanic Temple's journey.”

Dig deeper: Read Kim Henderson’s report in WORLD Magazine for more background on Michael Cassidy.

Christina Grube

Christina Grube is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute.

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