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In the United States, You May Face Hate Crime Charges for Fighting Satanism

March 14th, 2024

Veteran who destroyed the Satanic Temple’s Baphomet statue at the Iowa Capitol now facing hate crime charges.

Many Americans forget that the United States is a constitutionally secular republic with no official religion. Although one might argue that the country was founded on Christian values, the government is usually careful to separate church and state. Any overlap between these two realms can potentially lead to lawsuits – and we have certainly seen this type of legal action in the past. The most important thing to remember about this secular system is that all religions should be treated equally by US courts. This is why one man is now facing hate crime charges for desecrating a Satanic Temple holiday display.

Mississippi Man Faces Felony Hate Crime Charges for Beheading Baphomet

In Satanist lore, a “Baphomet” is an important figure with both animal and human features. Although Satanists obviously worship Satan first and foremost, they also respect the Baphomet as a symbol of their faith. This is similar to the symbolism of the cross for Christians. Although Satanists are free to worship whatever symbols they want in the United States, they cannot set up statutes of Baphomets on government property without permission. In the same way, Christians cannot set up crucifix statues on government property since this would violate the constitutionally mandated separation between church and state. In other words, both religions follow exactly the same rules. 

This basic principle changed somewhat in Iowa a few years ago. A new bill was passed allowing any religious group to install a symbol of their faith at the Capitol Building. Inevitably, all of the “mainstream” religions took them up on this offer – including Christians, Jews, and Muslims. However, the Church of Satan also decided to participate – and that’s when they installed a Baphomet statue in the Capitol Building.

Various Christian observers demanded that they remove the statue, but Iowa lawmakers were powerless to take action. Their bill had already been passed, and there was no going back. If they wanted to remove the Baphomet statue, they would also be forced to remove all other religious symbols from the Capitol Building as well. Again, we see the emphasis on treating all religions in exactly the same way. 

Christian Vigilante Destroys Satanic Temple’s Display

One man from Mississippi decided to take matters into his own hands. He traveled to the Capitol Building, beheaded the Baphomet statue, and turned himself in to the local security guards. He admitted to his act and later claimed that it was “Christian civil disobedience.”

Initially, this individual was charged with minor offenses. But in February of 2024, these charges were upgraded to a Class D felony under Iowa’s hate crime system. This means that if convicted, he will face up to five years in prison, fines, and the loss of his constitutional rights (including the right to bear arms). 

How could this have happened? While it might seem disproportional to his act, this is consistent with both hate crime laws and constitutional provisions on religious freedoms. First of all, the defendant made self-incriminating remarks on numerous occasions and all but admitted that his actions were spurred by religious intolerance. This is a classic example of a hate crime – regardless of the religion in question. Secondly, US courts are legally required to treat all religions the same way without bias or preference. In other words, judges in Iowa must approach this situation as if the man desecrated a Christian or Jewish statue. 

The Universal Life Church Respects Diverse Faith Backgrounds

The Universal Life Church (ULC) respects people from all different faith backgrounds. Although the situation in Iowa has critics on both sides, we encourage everyone to strive to do that which is right and respect diverse points of view. To learn more about the Universal Life Church, do not hesitate to reach out. 

One Comment


    Upholding Secularism and Religious Equality: Lessons from a Legal Battle Over Religious Freedom
    In the United States, a country founded on the principles of freedom and equality, the recent incident involving the desecration of a Satanic Temple holiday display starkly reminds us of the challenges to these ideals. A Mississippi man, in a blatant act of religious intolerance, decapitated a Baphomet statue, igniting a legal and societal debate about the boundaries of religious expression and the role of secularism in public life. This event tests America’s commitment to its foundational values, demanding a forceful legal response and societal reflection.

    The United States Constitution enshrines secularism and the separation of church and state, ensuring no single religion dominates the public sphere or influences government policy. However, this incident exposes the tension between this commitment and the reality of religious diversity and expression in America. It challenges us to confront the question: How do we uphold the secular promise when religious symbols enter the governmental arena?

    Elevating the charges against the perpetrator to felony hate crime levels sends a clear, powerful message: Acts of religious hatred will not be tolerated. This legal stance reaffirms the principle that all religions, regardless of their popularity or acceptance in mainstream culture, stand equal before the law. This decision is not just about punishing a crime but about upholding the right of all religious groups to express their beliefs freely and safely.

    The inclusion of various religious symbols in Iowa’s Capitol Building, prompted by new legislation, aimed to reflect the nation’s religious pluralism. Yet, the backlash against the Baphomet statue installation by the Church of Satan reveals a discomforting double standard. It showcases the struggle to fully embrace the diversity this policy intended to celebrate. This situation forces us to examine our collective commitment to religious equality and the practical challenges of implementing it.

    The demand by some Christian groups to remove the Baphomet statue, met by the legal impossibility of doing so without removing all religious symbols, underscores a critical point: secularism and religious freedom require absolute neutrality from the state. This principle is easy to uphold in theory but challenging in practice, as seen in the fervent reactions to the statue. It demands that we navigate religious expression with care, ensuring that no belief system is privileged or penalized.

    The felony hate crime charges against the individual who attacked the Satanic display are a testament to the seriousness with which the United States must approach acts of religious vandalism. By treating this act with the gravity it deserves, the legal system sets a precedent for how similar future offenses will be handled, emphasizing the importance of protecting minority religions from acts of intolerance.

    The Universal Life Church’s advocacy for respect and understanding across different faiths highlights an essential response to incidents like these. It calls for a societal shift towards greater acceptance and recognition of religious diversity as a strength rather than a point of contention. Promoting dialogue and mutual respect among different religious groups is crucial for moving forward.

    This incident, while regrettable, offers an invaluable lesson on the complexities of living in a secular democracy that values religious freedom. It challenges Americans to reflect on their values and the real-world application of those values in a diverse society. Upholding secularism and religious neutrality is not just a legal requirement but a moral imperative to ensure that all citizens can practice their faith without fear.

    As the United States continues to navigate the fine line between religious expression and secular governance, this case serves as a critical reminder of the work still needed. It calls for a collective effort to reaffirm the country’s commitment to diversity, equality, and freedom. Only through deliberate action and reflection can America truly embody the ideals upon which it was founded.

    Ultimately, this incident should galvanize us toward a deeper understanding and respect for the pluralistic fabric of American society. Recognizing and protecting the rights of all religious communities, regardless of their size or societal acceptance, is foundational to the nation’s identity. The path forward requires a steadfast dedication to these principles, ensuring that America remains a beacon of religious freedom and equality.

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