(Feb. 1) Please, people, can we all agree that the vandalization of a satanic statue is not a “hate crime”?


The already problematic modern prosecution of “hate crimes” reached a farcical level this week when a Navy veteran was charged with that offense for destroying a statue erected by the Satanic Temple of Iowa. The statue had been in the Iowa Capitol under a state policy allowing religious displays there during the holidays. The Satanic Temple says it does not worship any deity, but instead is dedicated to promoting secularism. Its goal, in its own words, is to promote “effective and artful protest.” Its display at the Iowa Capitol was not really a free expression of religion but instead a mockery of it.

The veteran who destroyed the statue is Michael Cassidy, a former congressional candidate in Mississippi, who said he considered the statue to be “blasphemous.” Originally, and correctly, Polk County charged him with fourth-degree criminal mischief, a misdemeanor. No matter what the motivation, nobody has a right to destroy someone else’s legal property without punishment. It is wrong and illegal to tear down a satanic statue without a permit, just as it is wrong and illegal to tear down a statue of Jesus Christ, Thomas Jefferson, or Robert E. Lee.

For whatever reason, though, Polk County prosecutors decided the original criminal charge wasn’t serious enough. A document made public on Jan. 30 now charges him with third-degree criminal mischief, carrying steeper punishment as a hate crime “in violation of individual rights.” Even if one buys into the notion that “hate crimes” merit stiffer penalties than the same illegal actions motivated by something other than hate, this new charge against Cassidy is a terribly ill-advised application of such laws…. [The rest of the column is at this link.]

[And for more on hate crimes in general, read this Hillyer column from 2012.]


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