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Man Charged With Hate Crime for Allegedly Vandalizing The Satanic Temple’s Display in Iowa

michael cassidy
L: Screenshot from X / @bennyjohnson. R: Screenshot from X / @jdunwell

Michael Cassidy, the man who on Dec. 14 allegedly vandalized The Satanic Temple (TST) display in the Iowa State Capitol building, has been charged with a hate crime. Cassidy has defended his alleged actions, stating, “Satan is real! And we should NOT tolerate him in our midst!”

“Some say ‘who cares about Satanic altars. They don’t harm anyone!’” Cassidy posted on social media Jan. 9. “An Iowa dad sent me an angry email, angry because he couldn’t show his kids the Satanic altar after I destroyed it. The presence of evil can harm children! We should not tolerate evil!”

RELATED: ‘I’m Greatly Concerned’—Rep. Jon Dunwell Talks to ChurchLeaders About The Satanic Temple Controversy

Michael Cassidy Faces Hate Crime Charge

In early December, The Satanic Temple Iowa put up a holiday display in the Iowa State Capitol building. Featured in the display was a mannequin topped with a ram’s head made out of mirrors, a representation of Baphomet. According to TST cofounder Lucien Greaves, Baphomet is a figure that represents “pluralism, diversity, and nonbinary identity.” 

TST is classified as a religion and is therefore tax-exempt, although members do not believe in the supernatural or in Satan as a real being. The Satanic Temple is not the same as the Church of Satan, founded by Anton LaVey.  

The Iowa display offended many Christians, who were further angered when State Rep. Jon Dunwell defended the rights of TST to erect the display. Dunwell is a Christian and an ordained minister. 

“It’s really not that radical,” Dunwell said in a post on Dec. 10. “I don’t want the government dictating, approving, or regulating religious expression. I would rather have an evil blasphemous display, or no display at all, than have the state dictate what they think is appropriate.”

“I write that as a Bible-believing, Jesus is the only way, Pastor and elected leader who respects the constitution,” he continued. “I am SHOCKED so many want to give up their freedom, so they don’t have to see a display they disagree with.”

Dunwell was clear that he found the display objectionable but maintained that TST had the right to erect it. Numerous people responded by criticizing Dunwell, calling him “pathetic,” a “coward,” and a “heretic.” Quite a few accused the pastor of opposing God and needing to repent. Others thanked Dunwell for his stand and for upholding the American rights to freedom of religion and freedom of speech.