Christian Privilege Rears Its Head in Florida

Here’s a textbook example of Christian privilege. Remember that woman who tore down the satanic holiday display at the state capitol in Tallahassee, Florida? All charges against her have now been dropped even though she admitted to doing it and is on video doing it.

Susan Hemeryck was arrested just before Christmas after she attempted to remove a display placed by the religious group in the rotunda of the Florida Capitol.

The diorama depicted a Biblical scene with an angel falling into a pit of fire accompanied by the words “Happy Holidays from the Satanic Temple.”

Prosecutors with the state attorney’s office cited a lack of evidence that the display was damaged and dropped the charges even after a jury had been selected.

Hemeryck picked up the display and attempted to carry it out of the Capitol before police stopped her Dec. 23 –the day after it was set up.

“The defendant is simply carrying the display,” court records say. “No damages are apparent—it is simply disassembled.”

How is this not still vandalism? She took down a display that had a legal right to be there and that did not belong to her. She admitted to doing it. And she’s still showing absolutely no remorse and making an incredibly stupid argument:

Hemeryck in a statement said “I am very grateful to God for giving me the grace to take a stand against Satan and those who invoke his name even if they do not fully know what they are doing.”

“I was not afraid of going to trial,” she added. “I wanted the jury to know that I did not act criminally as wrongly portrayed, but a devout Catholic following the Church’s teaching for non-violent and peaceful opposition of evil.”

As if that were the choice? You acted criminally AND as a devout Catholic. But it’s still a crime. I seriously doubt an atheist dismantling a Christian holiday display would have the charges dropped. And now, of course, we’ll get more of this because even if you get caught doing it, you’ll face no consequences.

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  • http://www.thelosersleague.com theschwa

    They need to remake it this Xmas, but make it fragile and easily damaged. This time if she “moves” it, the prosecutor will have to start from scratch when he dismisses the charges, and not simply reuse last year’s version!

  • raven

    …doubt an atheist dismantling a Christian holiday display would have the charges dropped.

    They would probably be charged with a hate crime.

    Theft of baby Jesus figure may be hate crime, authorities say …

    www. cnn. com/2014/12/26/us/massachusetts-stolen-baby-jesus/

    Dec 30, 2014 – The FBI has joined the investigation into who stole a baby Jesus from a … Massachusetts, nativity scene and replaced it with a real pig’s head.

    Someone stole baby jesus from a nativity scene. The FBI jumped in.

    They soon caught the perpetrator. It wasn’t hard. It turned out to be a homeless woman with a long history of mental problems. She found the pig head while foraging in dumpsters for food. They took her to a psychiatric facility.

    If it hadn’t been an obvious psychiatric case, they would almost certainly have been charged with a hate crime.

  • John Hinkle

    I surprised she didn’t go the extra step and claim to be the victim.

  • http://kamakanui.zenfolio.com Kamaka
  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    And now, of course, we’ll get more of this because even if you get caught doing it, you’ll face no consequences.

    And she didn’t even have a badge!

  • lofgren

    I tend to suspect this type of thing is a pragmatic choice for the prosecutor. Satanists have such a bad rep, and Christian privilege is so pervasive, that they probably felt like going to trial was a pointless waste of time and resources. Besides, none of them who want to go on to have a career in politics or law want to be branded as the one who defended Satanists and oppressed a good Christian woman standing up for baby Jesus. Of course they can’t SAY that. Prosecutors would never admit that the system is so whimsical.

  • Alverant

    #3 Actually her lawyer did. He said the case “represents the state basically putting an attack on Christians,”

    In other words, she’s the victim for not being allowed to commit a crime.

  • ZugTheMegasaurus

    “How is this not still vandalism? She took down a display that had a legal right to be there and that did not belong to her. She admitted to doing it.”

    I was curious about this too. According to the articles I’ve read, the dropped charge was for criminal mischief, so I looked up Florida’s criminal statute to see what it said (they don’t seem to have a charge for “vandalism” in the law). Here’s the pertinent part:

    “(1)(a) A person commits the offense of criminal mischief if he or she willfully and maliciously injures or damages by any means any real or personal property belonging to another, including, but not limited to, the placement of graffiti thereon or other acts of vandalism thereto.

    (b)1. If the damage to such property is $200 or less, it is a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.”

    I think that’s the crux of this: the element that the property be injured or damaged. That’s why the prosecutor kept bringing it up. As someone who’s passionate about reining in overzealous prosecutors playing fast and loose with people’s lives, I can’t be upset with someone who carefully looked at the law and realized that the case likely could not be made beyond a reasonable doubt. Did it happen this time because it was a Christian attacking a Satanic display? Almost certainly. The prosecutor’s office knows damn well that that case is going to be under close scrutiny by the public, and even though it sucks that this woman can act like a total asshole with no real repercussions, better that than convict someone of a crime that they (however technically) didn’t actually commit.

  • Chris J

    Uhh… if it’s not technically vandalism, wouldn’t it still be attempted theft? I mean, she did try to walk out with the display that didn’t belong to her, right? I refuse to believe she didn’t do something illegal, even by technical definitions…

  • zenlike

    As Chris J says, it is still theft of someone else’s property. This woman committed a crime willingly, shows zero remorse, and still walks away scot free. Christian privilege, nothing less, nothing more.

  • http://kamakanui.zenfolio.com Kamaka

    zenlike @ 10

    Thinks herself a hero, too.

  • jonathangray

    lofgren:

    Satanists have such a bad rep

    lol

  • lofgren

    Uh, that wasn’t a joke. But thanks, I guess…

  • lorn

    Of course she wasn’t prosecuted. I would be career suicide. Anyone in public office prosecuting her could expect the tax exempt, and thus always well financed, Uruk-Ha of the Christian right to rise up against them.

  • ZugTheMegasaurus

    @ 9 & 10: Sure, it’s totally possible that she could have committed some other crime (disturbing the peace comes to mind). But the way the legal system works, defendants have to be charged with specific crimes; if they are not guilty of those specific offenses, we don’t get to change the charge just to make sure we can find them guilty of something. In this case, they charged her with something she wasn’t guilty of instead of something she was.

  • lofgren

    Wait, prosecutors can’t amend the charges if they determine that the original charge doesn’t quite fit? What the fuck kind of asinine rule is that?

    Does that mean that if I get charged with murder, and then it turns out that my victim just barely survived, I can’t be charge with assault instead? I’m pretty sure it doesn’t work that way.

  • dan4

    @15: “In this case, they charged her with something she wasn’t guilty of instead of something she was.” Uh, okay, but why didn’t the prosecutors charge her with something that clearly belongs in the latter category (theft) in the first place? Is there some peculiarity under Florida law that if you have to drop charges against a defendant because they didn’t violate the law, that automatically means that you can’t bring charges against that same person when they clearly DID violate the law?

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    NYPD cops would have shot her … except, wait. I bet she’s white.

  • dingojack

    So if we carefully dismantle her home, it’s contents, her car & etc. …

    Dingo

  • dan4

    17: yikes, meant “…if you have to drop charges against a defendant because they didn’t violate one law, that automatically means that you can’t bring charges against that same person when they clearly violated ANOTHER law?”

  • jonathangray

    lofgren:

    Uh, that wasn’t a joke

    That’s what’s so funny.

  • lofgren

    Sorry, are you suggesting that I was comically understating the situation, or are you suggesting that Satanists, primarily known in this country for running an underground network of baby rapers and cannibals, do not have a bad reputation?

  • ZugTheMegasaurus

    @lofgren & dan4: Charges are amendable, but there are rules and limits (which vary by jurisdiction, and to be clear, I’ve never studied or practiced law in Florida). Let’s use lofgren’s example, being charged with murder but then it turns out the victim survived. When this actually happens, it tends to go the other way, just because people don’t get charged with murder until the victim is dead. That’s why you’ll see a lot of cases where the person is arrested and charged with things like battery or even attempted murder, and then the charge is upgraded to murder when the victim dies of their injuries.

    But let’s contrast that to what happened here. I don’t know why the prosecutor chose not to charge the woman with theft, though it’s possible the law is written in a way that doesn’t apply like with the criminal mischief charge. Depending on the rules there, they would have had some period of time to amend charges. However, by the time they dropped this criminal mischief charge, the trial was set and the jury had been selected. At that point, it’s too late.

    One caveat though: because the charges were dropped before she went to trial, jeopardy likely has not attached. That means the prosecutor could come back with a different charge arising from the same incident if one fit (this would be a new trial, in contrast to amended charges). I wouldn’t hold my breath for it though.

  • lofgren

    All I’m hearing is that they could have done something and didn’t. I realize that to somebody who actually practices law, the difference between amending the charges or bringing new charges for a new trial is an important distinction, but in to me it all seems academic. The point is, there was never, and continues not to be, any reason they could not charge her with an appropriate crime if the one they originally settled on was inappropriate. I don’t really care what the exact machinations required are. There is a mechanism in place to fix the problem, and the prosecutor is choosing not use it. That’s the salient point.

  • jonathangray

    lofgren:

    Sorry, are you suggesting that I was comically understating the situation, or are you suggesting that Satanists, primarily known in this country for running an underground network of baby rapers and cannibals, do not have a bad reputation?

    If you choose to call yourself a Satanist in even a nominally Christian society, you are obviously going to be looked on with popular disfavour from the get-go. It seems perverse to complain about it — what else did you expect?

  • lofgren

    Well I imagine they expected that our society, which is nominally secular, would defend their rights as enumerated by our Constitution, and that a failure to do so would illuminate a critical weakness of the “open forum” excuse that Tallahassee is using to erect blatantly religious symbols on public land. To my mind they have been quite successful. I suppose you could make fun of them for complaining about having their Constitutional rights violated due to publicly advocating a socially unpopular position with the majority culture, but that would make you a victim blaming auhoritarian asshole.

  • jonathangray

    lofgren:

    Well I imagine they expected that our society, which is nominally secular, would defend their rights as enumerated by our Constitution, and that a failure to do so would illuminate a critical weakness of the “open forum” excuse that Tallahassee is using to erect blatantly religious symbols on public land.

    I’m not arguing with that; I was merely addressing what seemed to me to be your puzzlement that self-proclaimed Satanists should have a “bad rep”.

    I suppose you could make fun of them for complaining about having their Constitutional rights violated due to publicly advocating a socially unpopular position with the majority culture, but that would make you a victim blaming auhoritarian asshole.

    I would only make fun of them for complaining if they were genuine Satanists — because genuine Satanists tend to regard fairness and the rule of law with the contempt typical of an adolescent pseudo-Nietzschean. It would be funny in the same way as those militant neopagan fascists who sneer at Christianity as a pacific slave religion of weak sheep, then bleat about how Charlemagne crushed the pagan Saxons.

    If, on the other hand, these ‘Satanists’ were merely (atheist?) trolls trying to make a point about ‘Christian privilege’, then I would agree with you that they have been quite successful. If ‘Christian privilege’ is to be defended, it cannot be on secular democratic principles …

  • lofgren

    Well I’m not “puzzled” about why Satanists have a bad rep, and I dn’t believe I gave any indication that I was, and you never addressed my supposed “puzzlement,” you merely “lol”ed that any Satanist should expect equal protection from the law. “Addressing” something that is puzzling usually entails providing an explanation or otherwise at least commenting on it in some way, which you never did.

  • jonathangray

    Well I’m not “puzzled” about why Satanists have a bad rep, and I dn’t believe I gave any indication that I was

    Then I apologise for misreading you.

    you (…) “lol”ed that any Satanist should expect equal protection from the law.

    No, my “lol” was directed at what I mistakenly took to be your incredulity at the bad rep.

    you never addressed my supposed “puzzlement,” … “Addressing” something that is puzzling usually entails providing an explanation or otherwise at least commenting on it in some way, which you never did.

    Touché.

  • dingojack

    “… genuine Satanists tend to regard fairness and the rule of law with the contempt typical of an adolescent pseudo-Nietzschean”.

    Citations required.

    (OBTW, the survey sample should be wide and large enough to should show statistical significance at 90% confidence or better).

    Dingo

  • jonathangray

    Citations required.

    (OBTW, the survey sample should be wide and large enough to should show statistical significance at 90% confidence or better).

    Lol at the sperg.