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article imageFlorida: 'Catholic Warrior' arrested for damaging Satanic display

By Megan Hamilton     Dec 26, 2014 in World
Tallahassee - Apparently a display by the Satanic Temple that showed an angel falling into a pit of flames with the message "Happy Holidays from the Satanic Temple" was not one Florida woman's cup of eggnog.
Susan Hemeryck, 54, began trying to remove the display.
When the Capitol Police told her that she couldn't remove the display, she began tearing it apart. She was arrested and charged with alleged criminal mischief, TribLive reports. The display had been erected by an atheist group as a counterpoint to a Nativity Scene that had been taken down the same day that the Satanic Temple installed their display.
"It's just wrong, when you remove baby Jesus two days before Christmas and put Satan in his place — that just can't happen. I couldn't allow it to happen," Hemeryck said. "I was there at the right time and the right moment, and I needed to take a stand against Satan."
Hemeryck, dressed in a black t-shirt that bore the words "Catholic Warrior," was booked at the Leon County Jail, The Palm Beach Post reports. Attorneys with the organization that helped the Satanic Temple garner state approval for the display condemned what Hemeryck did.
"This act of mindless vandalism should be condemned by all decent people and all those who support true freedom of religion. It's important to remember that free speech in an open forum is for all groups, even those whose message some deem controversial or unpopular," Americans United for Separation of Church and State said. "Our attorneys fought hard for our clients to win the right to display their diorama in the Capitol Rotunda, and we don't intend to buckle under to this type of senseless destruction. We hope the display is quickly reassembled, and we call on authorities in Florida to prosecute the vandal to the full extent of the law."
Atheist groups decided to add their own displays in the Capitol's free speech zone last year, after a Christian group installed a manger scene, Fox News reports. Displays last year included a Festivus pole that paid tribute to an episode of "Seinfeld" that satirized the commercialization of Christmas, alongside a display by the Church of The Flying Spaghetti Monster.
Last year, the Satanic Temple display was rejected because it was considered "grossly offensive," but this year, on the heels of threats by the Americans United for Separation of Church and State to use legal action, the state Department of Management Services gave its approval.
"The angel's dead," John Porgal, regional director of American Atheists said after arriving at the Capitol to see the angel figurine lying on a table. "We've been tolerant of their display. We didn't like it, but we tolerated it. You see what they did to our display."
Porgal plans to leave the display as it is "as a sign of what the religious right's idea of tolerance is."
In his blog, The Friendly Atheist, Hemant Mehta wondered if this will be prosecuted as a hate crime.
"It seems like that would be the case if an 'atheist warrior' destroyed the Christian display," he wrote.
Pam Olsen, organizer of the manger display, said that she doesn't approve of the attack.
"I'm actually very sad that she felt motivated to do that," Olsen said, per Fox News. "I do not like the display. I think it's rude and it's sad that he put it up to protest the nativity that means so much to millions of people, however I don't think anyone should ever vandalize anything. Free speech is free speech whether we like it or not."
Hemeryck, a Tea Party activist, said she doesn't have a criminal record and hasn't even had a speeding ticket in over 15 years.
She said she only has one regret.
"I just yanked that little devil off the fishing line," she said. "I should have just done a better job and finished it off for good."
It's entirely clear that religious tolerance isn't her strong suit.
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