Is 'Vote Satan' Theft a Sign of Hate Crime?
The paper sign said "Vote Satan" in red, white and blue, right next to an American flag. But a thief ripped down the sign, and the Satanist couple who made it are as mad as... well... H-E-double-L.
"We are Satanists," Luigi Bellaviste of Mountain View, Colo., told Denver's KCNC-TV about his and his wife Angie's religious beliefs. "I feel like we're being treated unfairly because it's not a so-called mainstream religion."
Not only did a thief rip down their "Vote Satan" sign, but police wronged the couple a second time by declining to classify the theft as a hate crime, the Bellavistes say.
"Had that been the Star of David or a verse from the Koran, ... that would certainly be considered a hate crime," Luigi Bellaviste told KCNC about his "Vote Satan" sign theft.
To prove a hate crime, called a bias-motivated crime under Colorado law, prosecutors must generally show that a person:
- Intentionally intimidated or harassed a victim because of the victim's "perceived race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, physical or mental disability, or sexual orientation"; and
- Knowingly caused, or knowingly placed the victim in fear of, bodily injury or damage to the victim's property.
Mountain View police, however, say the "Vote Satan" theft showed no signs of a religiously motivated attack. With no evidence of the thief's intent, proving bias may not be possible -- at least, not without some divine (or Satanist) intervention.
This isn't the first time the Bellavistes have felt singled-out because of their Satanist beliefs. Neighbors have locked horns with them over the "Vote Satan" sign, along with other yard decorations like a Christmas tree painted black, several skulls, and displays of the Satanic number 666, KCNC reports.
Still, most of Luigi and Angie Bellaviste's non-Satanist neighbors are supporting their pursuit of justice for the "Vote Satan" sign theft. "It's still their property, it's still their house," one neighbor told KCNC. "They have a right to say whatever they have to say."
- Satanist couple: Theft of 'VOTE SATAN' sign is hate crime (MSNBC)
- Hate Crime: The Violence of Intolerance (FindLaw)
- Are 'Hate Crimes' the Same Thing as 'Thought Crimes'?: Opponents of the Federal Hate Crime Bill Invoke Free Speech (FindLaw's Writ)
- Assault + Racial Slur = A Hate Crime (FindLaw's Blotter)
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