A campy illustration of a devil with the word "HORROR" emblazoned behind it

Pastor Insists Trans People and Non-Christians are Possessed by Demons During Ohio House Committee Hearing

In a glaring example of the Venn diagram between Christian nationalism and the push to legislate transgender people out of existence, Pastor Stuart Long claimed non-Christian members of the Ohio House were likely possessed by demons while addressing its Public Health Committee on behalf of a bill restricting trans rights.

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Testifying in support of House Bill 68, the Ohio Saving Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act, Long laid the blame for trans people’s existence on a combination of pharmaceutical companies and demonic possession, which he claimed came about as a result of people believing in gods other than his own. Anyone who did not support this bill, Long claimed, was likely “possessed” by “demons,” and therefore should not be allowed to make laws on behalf of the people.

House Bill 68 is currently in its second round of hearings and is of real concern to trans people and their families in Ohio as it would prevent trans minors from being able to access any transition-related medical care. Not just outlawing gender-affirming surgery from being performed on anyone under 18, (something that’s already increasingly inaccessible), House Bill 68 would also cut trans teenagers off from accessing any kind of hormonal treatment, including puberty blockers—despite their being provenly safe, wholly reversible, and the international gold standard of care for transgender children. If the bill goes through then trans children currently in receipt of such care will be given a 180 days window to stop taking their puberty blockers or any other hormonal treatment they may be receiving, after which medical personnel will no longer be able to prescribe them and penalties will kick in.

Long approached the committee during a period in which supporters of the bill were invited to speak, where he presented his demonic conspiracy theory to them as if it was a reasonable piece of evidence, on par with medical studies or the testimony of lived experience:

“Everyone’s after identity right now, and when they can confuse your identity they can destroy this country. And we the people, who have imbued our power into the representatives can run another agenda that’s frankly demonic. The only thing that makes sense for what’s going on in this country is that demons are influencing people, allowing their bodies to be possessed to run satanic agendas that are out here running. So if no one else is going to say it I sure will.”

Long continued by expressing that he didn’t believe those possessed by demons, a.k.a. anyone who disagrees with his very specific views on Christianity, should not be allowed to make laws in the US.

That’s what’s going on in this country, if you can’t say Jesus Christ is come in the flesh your body is possessed by demons or you haven’t invited him in. So I think that’s what I would like to see, people that are possessed by demons don’t get to make demonic agendas in demonic doctrines that effect our people and our children and our laws and our country. So I just wanted it to be said, since nobodies got up and said this OK. God bless you guys.

When Representative Beth Liston asked with some shock “Did you just call our Hindu, Muslim, and Jewish members demons?” Long did not say no, but rather elaborated further:

If you do not have the holy spirit inside you there’s a phrase you can’t say, that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, and if you are open to those gods based on that faith you are allowing other gods non [unclear] gods to possess your physical form. That would be described as giving access to your physical form, to the mystery that’s been hidden from angels for generations, the hope of God in Christ. If you’re not down with that, so to speak, if you’re of another religion that’s not of that, you’ve given access to non-godly entities to make your decisions.

Liston made a firm statement in response, saying “any opposition to this bill I will strongly say is not from possession by demons,” before further expressing her concern that Long was calling members of their House demons. Long however then chose to correct her with what is in some ways an even more concerning statement:

Well no you’re all people, hopefully human entities, but what you allow to rule your spirit, your soul and your body, right? And what you allow to rule in the spirit controls your physical soul and your body, if you’re in order. A lot of times your body’s in control, uses the spirit to feed it’s energy, its kind of a metaphysical conversation. I’m not calling you demons, I’m bringing up the fact you might be possessed and making decisions without the discernment of God.

The ideas of demon possession, spiritual warfare, and other, similar beliefs centered around the metaphysical persecution of Christians by both non-believers and occult forces are becoming increasingly popular among extremist, Evangelical groups. That Pastor Long—and he is a pastor, remember, with a flock of people who listen to him—is leaving open the possibility that members of the Ohio House who disagree with him on matters of faith or gender identity might be literal non-human entities, should send alarm bells ringing. Especially as he feels comfortable casually expressing these beliefs in public.

I wish this were a harmless, silly belief, put forward by a group of cartoonish Ned Flanders types, safe to laugh at, but it absolutely is not. The Satanic Panic is not confined to the 1990s. People are still being killed because members of their families or church community believe they’re possessed or otherwise engaged with satan and the forces of evil. Any mainstreaming of this idea, especially one that explicitly targets an already vulnerable group, is dangerous, especially because of the ways it connects so neatly with existing fascist rhetoric.

Though Representative Gary Click, sponsor of the bill being debated, was quick to disassociate himself and his cause from Long, saying “I cannot emphasize enough how much I don’t support those statements,” and that he was “devastated” that Long’s piece overshadowed the “science and facts and lived experiences” of those people he did invite to speak, he shouldn’t have been surprised by it. This is the religious right, this is who their biggest supporters are, and that Long clearly believes there should be no separation of church and state should have been the biggest clue that he absolutely is one of their own. A belief that you shouldn’t be in the legislature if you’re “making decisions without the discernment of [the Christian] God” is increasingly mainstream on the right, and these are the people leading the charge against trans rights as well, specifically because they believe they have the right to use the law to eradicate everything, and everyone, whose existence they see as a sin. You don’t get to sign on with bigots and zealots and then be shocked when they take things further than you’d like.

The mask is coming off, but it was never held very firmly in the first place—this is who is driving this movement, and its time for the rest of its supporters to decide if their disgust at trans people living their lives is more important than stopping would-be theocrats before they get any further.

(via Columbus Dispatch, featured image: Man_Half-tube/Getty Images)

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Siobhan Ball
Siobhan Ball (she/her) is a contributing writer covering news, queer stuff, politics and Star Wars. A former historian and archivist, she made her first forays into journalism by writing a number of queer history articles c. 2016 and things spiralled from there. When she's not working she's still writing, with several novels and a book on Irish myth on the go, as well as developing her skills as a jeweller.