Ex-Mississippi House Candidate Faces Charges Following Vandalism of Satanic Temple Display at Iowa Capitol


Someone is blamed for destroying a Satanic Temple display inside the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines. The person is a former U.S. Navy fighter pilot who was recently defeated in a race for the Mississippi statehouse.

The display is allowed by the rules that govern religious installations in the Capitol, but many Republicans, including Ron DeSantis, who is running for president, have spoken out against it. The Satanic Temple said on Facebook on Thursday that the show, a Baphomet statue, “was destroyed beyond repair,” but some of it is still there.

The Iowa Department of Public Safety said Friday that Michael Cassidy, 35, of Lauderdale, Mississippi, was charged with fourth-degree criminal mischief. He was let go after being arrested.

Kennedy beat Cassidy, a Republican, in November in Mississippi State House District 45. Jackson is a Democrat.

Cassidy’s campaign website is still up and running. On the back, it says that he was a Navy fighter pilot and a pilot teacher. He calls himself a “Christian conservative who loves our country and is dedicated to protecting the freedoms that the Founding generation gave us.”

Cassidy ran against U.S. Rep. Michael Guest in 2022 but lost in a primary rerun because they were tied with less than 300 votes. Guest got almost 70% of the vote and won the rematch.

Messages sent to Cassidy and The Satanic Temple on Friday were not answered right away.

Part of the show was still there at the Capitol site on Friday. There was a man sitting in front of the display who wouldn’t give his name. He said Christian prayers that included references to Jesus. He didn’t make it clear right away whether he supported or opposed the Satanic Temple.

The show is on the east side of the Capitol, next to a column and fancy stairs. It’s about 100 feet away from the rotunda’s Christmas tree.

The Salem, Massachusetts-based Satanic Temple was founded in 2013. It doesn’t believe in Satan and calls itself a “non-theistic religious organization” that supports secularism. It’s not the same as the Church of Satan, which began in the 1960s.

This week, Cassidy was interested in the show. He shared a message on X, which used to be called Twitter, on Tuesday that included two photos: one of a Thomas Jefferson statue being taken down from an unknown place, and the other of the Satanic Temple display.

“We have reached a point where our Capitols are taking down Jefferson statues while Satan statues are being put up,” the message said.

Before Cassidy was arrested, a fund was set up to help raise money for his defense. Cassidy wrote on X that the donations stopped after $20,000 was raised.

Cassidy wrote late Friday morning that he had “been told of more possible legal charges unfortunately, so I’ve opened the legal fund donation back up.”

The Polk County Attorney’s office wouldn’t say anything.

The governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, often campaigns in Iowa before next month’s caucuses. According to the Des Moines Register, DeSantis said Tuesday that the display was partly the fault of former President Donald Trump’s government. The Internal Revenue Service decided that The Satanic Temple should be called a church in 2019. Trump was president at the time.

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