A Mississippi man who destroyed a “Satanic” statue in the Iowa Capitol last year has been charged with a hate crime, stirring outrage among Christian conservatives.
Michael Cassidy, a former congressional candidate, vandalized beyond repair a statue of the pagan idol Baphomet on Dec. 14 that had been set up by the Satanic Temple of Iowa.
Despite the statue being placed alongside other religious displays and in accordance with state law, critics argued that the Satanic Temple should be exempt from such religious liberties.
While Cassidy was initially charged with a misdemeanor criminal mischief charge, authorities announced this week that the charge had been changed to a felony due to his alleged violation of Iowa’s hate crime statute.
Polk County Attorney’s Office spokesperson Lynn Hicks, according to the Des Moines Register, said the charge was upgraded after “the defendant made statements to law enforcement and the public indicating he destroyed the property because of the victim’s religion.”
Many Christian conservatives online, however, appear to believe that religions they disagree with should not be granted the same religious freedoms.
“The one statue it is a hate crime to take down,” conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec said. “Are you paying attention yet?”
In reality, the destruction of any religious displays is considered a hate crime across the country. In 2021, a Brooklyn man was hit with hate crime charges after allegedly destroying a crucifix as well as setting fire to a synagogue.
Nevertheless, Christians still raged on social media over what they deemed as a religious injustice against them.
“A Mississippi man who admitted to destroying a statue of the pagan idol Baphomet at the Iowa Capitol has been charged with a hate crime,” another said. “You can now be charged for hating satan. Let that one sink in.”
Comparisons were also made by conservatives to the destruction of political monuments. In 2020, for example, left-wing protesters toppled a statue of former President Thomas Jefferson in Portland, Oregon.
Although Jefferson is not a religious figure, conservatives appeared to argue that the Satanic Temple was being shown favoritism.
“Beheading a satan statue is a hate crime but tearing down a Thomas Jefferson statue is celebrated,” the right-wing duo known as the Hodgetwins wrote. “Welcome to 2024.”
Some even vowed to destroy any other statues set up by Satanists regardless of the law.
“The bad: the world is upside down – smite evil, charged with a hate crime. The good: in their rush to make a legal case for satanism, we are witnesses,” an X user wrote. “The great: the next time this statue stands in public, we will rush to destroy it. Example is set.”
Cassidy, according to court records, is set to be arraigned on Feb. 15.
Although Cassidy and his lawyer have not publicly commented on the new charge, the former congressional candidate asked for donations to his legal defense in a post on X last month.
So far, Cassidy has received more than $90,000 for his defense.