Navy vet who toppled satanic display slapped with 'hate crime' charge, felony mischief

Michael Cassidy told The Christian Post in December that Christians defending a satanic display on constitutional grounds are 'overcomplicating' the situation.
Michael Cassidy told The Christian Post in December that Christians defending a satanic display on constitutional grounds are "overcomplicating" the situation. | : Courtesy Michael Cassidy R: Screengrab/X/The Republic Sentinel

A U.S. Navy veteran who toppled a satanic display in the Iowa state Capitol shortly before Christmas has been charged with felony mischief and a hate crime.

Michael Cassidy, 35, made headlines in December when he traveled from Mississippi to Des Moines and pushed over a red-cloaked statue of Baphomet where it stood near a Nativity scene.

The statue, which had been erected by the Iowa chapter of The Satanic Temple, was in front of a candle-lit altar adorned with the seven "Fundamental Tenets" of the organization, which claims not to believe in a personal devil.

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Cassidy, a former GOP candidate for the Mississippi House of Representatives, tossed the statue's silver ram's head in the trash before turning himself in to authorities, who issued him a citation for fourth-degree criminal mischief, a misdemeanor.

The charges against him have since escalated, with the Polk County Attorney's Office charging Cassidy with felony third-degree mischief and a hate crime under Iowa state law, according to a charging document made public Tuesday and reported by The Des Moines Register.

"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, told the local outlet.

The estimated repair costs for the Baphomet statue are between $750 and $1,500, according to Hicks.

In a social media post on Wednesday responding to the charges, Cassidy cited John 16:33. 

"Thanks to everyone who’s been supportive, I truly appreciate it," he wrote. "It’s important to remember what Jesus said in John 16:33 '…In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.'" 

A hate crime, as defined under the statute, includes criminal mischief "when committed against a person or a person's property because of the person's race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, political affiliation, sex, sexual orientation, age, or disability, or the person's association with a person of a certain race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, political affiliation, sex, sexual orientation, age, or disability."

Polk County Attorney Kimberly Graham, a Democrat whose campaign was flooded with hundreds of thousands of dollars from a George Soros-backed organization, was elected top prosecutor in June 2022 after pledging to reduce incarceration rates by easing up on low-level crimes such as marijuana possession.

Before Cassidy toppled it, the Baphomet statue stoked fierce debate even among Christian state lawmakers, who disagreed on whether it was legally protected. 

State Rep. Jon Dunwell, a Christian pastor, acknowledged in a viral thread on X at the time that while he personally finds the altar "objectionable" and "evil," he didn't think the government should be arbitrating religious displays.

Iowa state Rep. Brad Sherman, also a pastor, argued otherwise, claiming that the display violated the Iowa State Constitution and appealing to Iowa's Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds to take it down.

Reynolds also denounced the statue, though she fell short of calling for its removal.

"Like many Iowans, I find the Satanic Temple's display in the Capitol absolutely objectionable," Reynolds said in a statement at the time. "In a free society, the best response to objectionable speech is more speech, and I encourage all those of faith to join me today in praying over the Capitol and recognizing the nativity scene that will be on display — the true reason for the season."

During an interview with The Christian Post in December, Cassidy was adamant that he did the right thing and suggested Christians who believe the U.S. Constitution protects a satanic display on government property are "overcomplicating" blatant evil that they should be resisting.

"The people who wrote our Constitution would be shocked to think of defending Satan as consistent with their beliefs when they wrote the laws that govern our nation," he said.

Simply because The Satanic Temple filled out a government form and checked the right boxes does not mean their display deserves to be equivalent to a Nativity scene and displayed on government property, Cassidy argued.

"People start overcomplicating the truth, which is that God is great and should be honored, and the devil is evil and should not be honored," he said. "I think people are tying themselves in knots trying to justify it, and it's really a lot simpler than that."

Cassidy noted that despite legal arguments that provide "a lot more intellectual heft" than he can, he said that his moral argument is not complicated.

"The devil is evil, and we should not pretend or act as if he is equal to a Nativity scene," he said.

Cassidy's legal defense fund has raised over $100,000 as of Wednesday.

Jon Brown is a reporter for The Christian Post. Send news tips to

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