Mountain View resident Luigi Bellavite said the theft of a political sign from his front porch rises to the level of a hate crime.
The sign, which was hanging next to an American flag said, Vote Satan.
He said the sign fit in with the rest of his yard, which neighbors said looks like a year round Halloween display.
It contains faux spiders and skulls, an upside-down cross and mannequins dressed as witches and devils.
Bellavite said he and his wife, Angie, are members of the Church of Satan, but he said that doesnt mean they believe in the devil.
I dont believe there is a devil down there with horns and a pitchfork, he told 7NEWS.
When asked why he posted the sign if he doesnt believe theres a devil, Bellavite replied, Because it symbolizes freedom from dogmas.
He went on to explain that in the old days, people who didnt believe what the church taught were called Satanists.
They were burned alive, drowned or beheaded, he said.
Bellavita said that in the United States, people have freedoms guaranteed by the first amendment, including freedom of religion.
Thats why he thinks the theft of his political sign is a hate crime.
It only cost $20, he said. I dont care about that. I care about somebody coming with a knife, on my front porch, and deliberately damaging whats mine.
He said police filed the case as a theft, but he believes its much more than theft.
If it was the Star of David, absolutely it would be a hate crime, he said. There are such double standards that some religions and some ideas are protected and other are not. Thats why Im (talking to the media.)
Some neighborhood kids described the house and the couple who live there as, kind of creepy.
Shell vote for Satan, they told 7NEWS.
Other neighbors, like Kathy Vallejos, said the Bellavites keep to themselves and dont try to push their religion on others.
When asked what she thought about all the decorations in the Bellavites yard, Vallejos said, It doesnt bother me. Its their yard. But she added that sometimes, when she walks down the block, shell cross the street to avoid walking directly in front of the house.
It depends on the kind of feeling that you have in you, she said.
Vallejos theorized that the thief was just a kid or group of kids who wanted the sign for themselves.
A couple of other neighbors thought the same thing. But one, who didnt want to talk on camera, or provide his name, said its possible that someone was targeting the Bellavites for their beliefs.
Several worry that the publicity will cause other intolerant people to lash out at the couple.
I worry about them, and I worry about us as neighbors, one said.
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