A man from Mississippi has been charged with a hate crime after he allegedly badly damaged a Satanic display at Iowa's capitol building in Des Moines in December. The damaged display included a statue of the pagan idol Baphomet.
Under state rules, the display organized by the Satanic Temple of Iowa was permitted to be at that location. It was allowed under rules in Iowa permitting religious displays at the capitol building.
The display drew strong criticism at the time from national and state leaders, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, as it gained particular attention during the holidays as a nativity scene was erected in the same building.
Michael Cassidy, a former Mississippi congressional candidate, was charged after the vandalism with misdemeanor fourth-degree criminal mischief.
He said at the time, "My conscience is held captive to the word of God, not to bureaucratic decree. And so I acted."
That charge was upgraded, according to court documents reported on by the Des Moines Register, accusing Cassidy of committing felony third-degree criminal mischief "in violation of individual rights" underIowa's hate crime legislation.
Sara Pasquale, an attorney for Cassidy, declined to comment on the matter by late Tuesday.
Pasquale accused the Satanic Temple of making court filings "meant to evoke strong emotions and incite others," comparing the timing of the filings to the timing of the church's display in the Capitol just before the Christmas holiday.
The Polk County Attorney's Office said there is evidence that Cassidy expressed his motive for destroying the display based on religion.
The ACLU of Iowa has said "When the government opens up its facilities to outside use, it cannot discriminate based on religious beliefs."
Republican Vivek Ramaswamy told Iowa voters that he disagrees with the Satanic Temple's display but the display should be protected.
"For those who wish to worship Satan, they are free to do so on their private property. But to allow satanic expression in the State Capitol and other public property is to surrender to Satan’s demands for equality with God," state Rep. Brad Sherman wrote in a newsletter to constituents.
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