Is stealing a VOTE SATAN sign a hate crime?


This isn’t the first time someone has backed Satan for public office. Photo by Flickr user futureatlas.com.

Rooting for Satan in the 2012 presidential election might be a long shot, but that’s no reason to take someone’s “VOTE SATAN” signs down.

A couple in Mountain View, Colorado, posted such a sign outside their home. Someone snatched it, and now the couple — Luigi and Angie Bellaviste — say they are the victims of a hate crime.

The Bellavistes, who are Satanists, told the local CBS affiliate that the theft was motivated by religious differences:

“I feel like we’re being treated unfairly because it’s not a so-called mainstream religion,” said Luigi.

“I know of many people who have the Virgin Mary and tons of Jesus memorabilia ‘I Love Jesus’ and what is the difference?” said Angie.

This situation raises a number of interesting questions: Do we know for sure that the person who took the sign down did so because they don’t like Satan or Satanists? It’s just as likely that this is random teen vandalism, or a someone who thought the sign was cool and wanted to keep it.

The folks at Mycrappyneighbor.com covered the incident, and even interviewed Peter Gilmore, High Priest of the Church of Satan. Here’s what he had to say about whether the theft constituted a hate crime:

“I think the idea of “hate crimes” brings an aspect of nebulousness to prosecution. How can one be certain as to the actual motivation for any crime, unless the criminal is honest to law enforcement about his emotional and conceptual state prior to or during a criminal act? We do not have mind reading technology. Lie detector tests are not accurate. Since “hate crime” statutes often increase the level of punishment for a crime, only the most foolish of criminals would state that hatred and bigotry was a motivation for their actions.”

“If the sign had said “Vote Allah” or “Vote Jesus” would its theft and vandalism be considered to be a “hate crime”? If so, then local officials should not be so quick to dismiss this just because they may not share the religious or philosophical convictions of those who are the victims in this situation.”

So, what does the hate-crime law in Colorado say?

“A person commits a bias-motivated crime if, with the intent to intimidate or harass another person because of that person’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, physical or mental disability, or sexual orientation, he or she … knowingly causes damage to or destruction of the property of another person.”

Still, we’d need to know who tore down the sign, and why they did it, before we can say it’s a hate crime.

While looking through the city of Mountain View’s municipal code, I was also interested to find the following regulations regarding campaign signs on people’s property:

Temporary political signs of less than six (6) square feet in size may be located on the property no earlier than sixty (60) days before an election and no later than fifteen (15) days after the election.

If theirs was a legitimate campaign sign, then the Bellavides were out of bounds posting it in June — it’s still more than 60 days until the presidential election on Nov. 6.

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