Michael Cassidy, a Christian U.S. Navy veteran and former congressional candidate, has been charged with a hate crime after tearing down and beheading the controversial Satanic Temple statue that was displayed in the rotunda of the Iowa Statehouse in December.
According to court documents reviewed by the Des Moines Register, Polk County prosecutors have charged the Christian Navy veteran with felony third-degree criminal mischief, claiming that Cassidy’s beheading of The Satanic Temple statue was “in violation of individual rights” under the state’s hate crime laws. Cassidy is scheduled to be arraigned on February 15.
While Cassidy was previously charged with misdemeanor fourth-degree criminal mischief immediately following the incident, officials had warned the Navy veteran that he could face additional charges.
Lynn Hicks, a Polk County Attorney’s Office’s spokesperson, said, “Evidence shows the defendant made statements to law enforcement and the public indicating he destroyed the property because of the victim’s religion.” Hicks explained that Cassidy’s intention behind the beheading of the Satanic statue prompted the hate crimes charge.
Hicks noted that based on information provided by The Satanic Temple, the replacement of the Satanic statue that was destroyed by Cassidy in the rotunda of the Iowa Statehouse would cost somewhere between $750 and $1,500. Meanwhile, The Satanic Temple has filed a damage estimate that claims the replacement of the statue would cost $3,000.
In December, Cassidy told The Sentinel that he destroyed The Satanic Temple’s display in the Iowa Statehouse to “awaken Christians to the anti-Christian acts promoted by our government.”
“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 said.
The Christian Navy veteran added, “I saw this blasphemous statue and was outraged. My conscience is held captive to the word of God, not to bureaucratic decree. And so I acted.”
As the legal battle between Cassidy and Polk County prosecutors continues, Cassidy has raised over $98,00 on his GiveSendGo website to cover rising legal costs. According to the Des Moines Register, Cassidy has received financial contributions from almost 2,000 individuals.