Michael Cassidy, a Christian and former U.S. military officer, has been charged with a hate crime for destroying a Satanic Baphomet statue at the Iowa Capital.
The statue was part of a display organized by the Satanic Temple of Iowa under state rules that allow religious displays at the capital during holidays. The move was heavily criticized by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and a number of elected Republicans nationwide, though state lawmakers ultimately allowed the statue to stay, citing religious freedom concerns.
On December 14, the Satanic Temple reported that the statue had been decapitated and “destroyed beyond repair.”
This is Michael Cassidy. He is a devout Christian and former military officer.
Michael just tore down and beheaded the Satan idol that was erected in the Iowa Capitol.
Not all heroes wear capes. pic.twitter.com/8j9z31lxop
— End Wokeness (@EndWokeness) December 14, 2023
The following day, Cassidy was charged with fourth-degree criminal mischief, a misdemeanor. Cassidy, who narrowly lost a primary election to U.S. Rep. Michael Guest (R-MS) in 2022, told The Sentinel that his “conscience is held captive to the word of God, not to bureaucratic decree. And so I acted.”
On Tuesday, Polk County prosecutors announced more serious charges against the Christian veteran. A charging document obtained by the Des Moines Register shows that Cassidy is now being charged with felony third-degree criminal mischief and notes that the act was committed “in 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,” triggering the violation of individual rights enhancement, said Lynn Hicks, a spokesman for the Polk County Attorney’s Office.
Sara Pasquale, an attorney representing Cassidy, has accused the Satanic Temple of of making premature filings that, “like the timing and substance of the Satanic Temple of Iowa’s installation of a demonic statue in the capitol building… are only meant to evoke strong emotions and incite others.”
According to court records, Cassidy is scheduled to be arraigned on February 15. He had already raised more than $80,000 for his legal defense on GiveSendGo prior to the announcement of the new charges.
“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,” Cassidy told Human Events shortly after the incident.