Veteran Who Destroyed Satanic Display Faces ‘Hate Crime’ Charge

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.

Michael Cassidy, of Lauderdale, Mississippi, was initially charged with fourth-degree criminal mischief on December 15, one day after the damage was reported. Cassidy was then released after his arrest.

According to court documents, the cost to replace or repair the property is between $750 and $1,500. Documents also claim that the act was committed “in violation of individual rights” under Iowa’s hate crime statute.

The display, made by the Satanic Temple Iowa, who said they were exercising their right to religious freedom, had already attracted significant controversy among Christians holding a prayer group in protest. It featured a human-sized statue of Baphomet, a horned demon adopted for worship by some Satanists, with a row of lit candles in front.

In his statement to The Sentinel, Cassidy said, “My conscience is held captive to the word of God, not to bureaucratic decree, and so I acted.”

“Evidence shows the defendant made statements to law enforcement and the public indicating he destroyed the property because of the victim’s religion,” Lynn Hicks, a spokesman for the Polk County Attorney’s Office, said in a statement.

Cassidy is scheduled to be arraigned on February 15 and has raised more than $84,000 for his defense from nearly 2,000 supporters, according to the fundraising site GiveSendGo.

In December, Cassidy reposted a message on X (formerly known as Twitter) that included two photos, one of a Thomas Jefferson statue being removed from an unspecified location and one of the Satanic Temple display.

“We have reached the point where our Capitols are removing Jefferson while monuments to Satan are erected,” the X post read.

Presidential candidate Ron DeSantis offered financial support to Cassidy’s legal defense.

“Satan has no place in our society and should not be recognized as a religion by the federal government. I’ll chip in to contribute to this veteran’s legal defense fund. Good prevails over evil; that’s the American spirit,” DeSantis said on X.