Veteran Faces ‘Hate Crime’ Charge Over Destruction Of Iowa Satanic Display

A “hate crime against satan” combined with criminal mischief — that’s the charges veteran Michael Cassidy faces in connection with his December 15 demolition of a satanic Nativity display in the Iowa State Capitol. The display was owned and set up by “religious organization” The Satanic Temple (TST), who pressed charges based on the damage.

While the damage itself warranted fourth-degree criminal mischief, the hate crime charge was tacked on because of the monetary amount of the damage. This could elevate the charge to a Class D felony and a potential five-year prison sentence. TST claimed that their statue of Baphomet, a prominent figure in satanic worship, was damaged beyond repair as a result of the attack.

Cassidy justified his actions in part using the Biblical passage 1 John 3:8 which reads: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), speaking on X, has offered to help with Cassidy’s legal bills, saying: “Satan has no place in our society and should not be recognized as a ‘religion’ by the federal government.”

While many may agree with the first part of DeSantis’ statement, there is a point of view echoing that of St. Thomas More as portrayed in the 1962 Best Picture-winning film A Man for All Seasons. That is the concept of “giving the devil the benefit of the law.” This means that if the Satanic Temple is permitted space in the public square, then so must the Catholic Church or a Jewish Synagogue. St. Thomas More explained that he would “the devil the benefit of the law” for his sake, not for the devil’s.

Indeed, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) said in a statement released after the incident: “In a free society, the best response to objectionable speech is more speech.”

The Satanic Temple, on its website, bills itself as a non-superstitious religious organization that neither believes in nor worships a personal Satan. They have placed nativity scenes in other prominent public buildings, such as the Illinois State Capitol. TST has also found itself at the center of other high-profile controversies, notably providing access to abortion on the grounds that it is a “religious” ceremony.