Michael Cassidy, a Mississippi man, faces charges of a hate crime for allegedly destroying a statue of the pagan idol Baphomet at Iowa’s state Capitol. The statue, brought by the Satanic Temple of Iowa, sparked controversy among state and national leaders. Cassidy, charged initially with misdemeanor criminal mischief, now faces a felony third-degree criminal mischief charge. Prosecutors allege the act violated individual rights under Iowa’s hate crime statute, citing statements made by Cassidy indicating the destruction was motivated by the victim’s religion. Cassidy’s attorney declined to comment on the new charge. The Satanic Temple, a non-theistic religious organization, has distanced itself from the incident.
“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.
Founded in 2013, the Salem, Massachusetts-based Satanic Temple says it doesn’t believe in Satan but describes itself as a “non-theistic religious organization” that advocates for secularism. It is separate from the Church of Satan, which was founded in the 1960s.
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