Navy Veteran Gets Hate Crime Charge for Beheading Statue

( – On December 14, US Navy veteran Michael Cassidy made headlines for beheading a statue of the deity Baphomet in Iowa’s Capitol building. The move was met with split commentary, with conservatives like Ron DeSantis lauding the move while others criticized the violence in the face of another religion. Cassidy was later arrested and charged in the incident, and he is now facing a felony hate crime as a result.

After beheading the statue, Cassidy stuck by his decision to do so. He appeared on Fox News some time later to speak about the incident and said “it offended [him]. It touched a nerve,” so he “pulled [Baphomet’s] head off.” The display had been erected by the Satanic Temple of Iowa for the holiday season, and it was approved by the state.

Mortimer Adramelech, a minister with the Satanic Temple of Iowa, spoke with NBC and said “all religions have equal rights in the public forum under the First Amendment.” He said the Satanic Temple was no different, even if there are people who don’t understand it.

The Satanic Temple is a relatively new religious movement, founded in 2013, and is non-theistic. Contrary to popular belief, its members do not worship—or even believe in—Satan but rather have their own tenets, including, ironically, respecting the freedoms of others, “including the freedom to offend.”

In a press release by the Polk County Attorney, the prosecutor noted that Cassidy had been charged with a class D felony, third-degree criminal mischief in violation of individual rights, when he “intentionally” damaged the statue. The damage, an estimated $750 to $1,500, would make it an aggravated misdemeanor, but the veteran’s statements—both to authorities and the media—about the religion following the dismantling of the piece upgraded it to a felony.

Cassidy is due to be arraigned on the charge on February 15.

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