Black Satanist Candidate Faces LA Sheriff Shakedown

Steve Hill is a lot of things: A former marine, a former correctional officer, a stand-up comic, and a political candidate. And he’s a Black Satanist who’s spoken publicly about how Christianity is holding the Black community back. Hill also works as a home appraiser and travels in a vehicle with a vanity license plate that reads “4 Satan.” 

Shortly before the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, Hill was confronted by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) for being “suspicious.” Since then, the more Hill has sought justice, the more outrageous the situation has become. Hill’s situation makes it hard to tell where racial profiling ends and religious discrimination begins. It also reveals what kinds of prejudice have to be concealed or denied and what kinds are still acceptable.

Hill has been doing real estate appraisals for 15 years. He usually doesn’t exit his vehicle and has figured out a way to take pictures of homes surreptitiously lest someone think he’s casing a house. “You develop survival techniques when you’re a Black appraiser,” he explains. In May 2020 on a job in Lancaster, a charter city north of Los Angeles, Hill noticed a man out trimming his hedges and staring at him while he did his appraisal. 

When Hill returned home 40 minutes later, he was met by a sheriff’s department officer. Hill says the officer was the neighbor of the hedge trimmer; no one had called the police, but he wanted to know why Hill had been in his neighborhood. This wasn’t the first time law enforcement has shown up at Hill’s home. In 2012, he says, police shot and killed the family dog during a similar incident.

Hill isn’t a bombastic man. He describes calls to “defund the police” as “an asinine phraseology” that distracts from more practical reform efforts. He tried to speak about his experience before an oversight committee discussing police reform, but was told to file a formal complaint and be silent. When he finally got a call from a lieutenant, Hill says the way the lieutenant addressed him reminds him of how people talked to inmates during his days as a parole officer. Hill hung up and began pursuing a lawsuit against the LASD.

A document from the law firm representing the LASD suggests Hill’s case should be dismissed since his Constitutional rights weren’t violated. It does not question whether there might have been a similar response to the presence of a white stranger in Lancaster, but it does have questions about the fact that Hill’s license plate reads “4 Satan.” For Hill, the plate is an expression of his religion, no different from a Jesus fish decal. But attorneys representing the LASD suggest it implies criminal intent.

Hill eventually fired his own attorney who, he said, appeared to be doing nothing to strengthen the case. He also filed a complaint with the state bar, believing his attorney was unwilling to faithfully represent a Satanist. He’s currently seeking help from the ACLU and the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

In February of this year, at a public meeting about illegal cannabis farms, Hill spoke out to say that the meeting was a political stunt intended to scare the public with stories of dangerous drug cartels in their neighborhoods before the upcoming election. Two months later, on March 7, Hill received another visit from the LASD at his home—this time with a warrant for his arrest. Someone had claimed to the LASD that Hill had spent time in a psychiatric hospital and that, as such, he wasn’t permitted to own guns. 

Hill claims he’s never spent the night in any hospital, let alone a psychiatric hospital. He spent nearly an hour handcuffed in his own driveway, in view of his children, while police searched his home for weapons. They confiscated two hunting guns—heirlooms that had belonged to Hill’s father—and the 9mm handgun that he keeps in his nightstand for home defense.

Hill received a letter from the Department of Justice summoning him to court on April 11 followed by a second letter saying that all charges had been dismissed. So far he says he’s been unable to get a straight answer as to who exactly had made claims about his mental health (and his guns have still not been returned). Hill feels this sort of action would never be taken against a white Christian.

Hill’s arrest also happens to benefit Mike Garcia, a Trump favorite running for California’s newly created 27th state congressional district. Hill had been planning to run against him and had already filed the $1740 non-refundable entry fee. But March 7, the day the LASD arrived based on a mysterious tip about his mental health history and guns, just happened to be the deadline to get on the ballot; because Hill spent close to an hour of that day in handcuffs, he says he was unable to deliver all the signatures he needed to have his candidacy in order by the deadline.

Hill is not alone. The LASD has been accused of harboring “a culture of abuse and corruption.” It’s impossible to know whether Hill would have been subjected to this treatment if he were a Black Christian whose license plate said “Blessed” instead of “4 Satan.” But it may be that Hill’s open Satanism encourages some people to act on their worst impulses. After all, who cares if a Satanist is subjected to a little harassment? 

As an “acceptable prejudice,” anti-Satanism can provide a convenient proxy for racial profiling and other, less acceptable forms of discrimination. Hill, drawing on his comedic side, suggests it’s in our own interest to care about how the justice system treats people like him: “First they came for the Black Satanists then they came for whatever fucking religion you practice.”