"He was over the toilet vomiting as I began to call out the spirits," she recalls. Kevin, or something inside Kevin, started to scream. "I mean a horrific scream, like none you've ever heard. Because that spirit didn't want to come out. But then it began to yield."

After about 20 minutes, Kevin unleashed a stream of shouted profanities. At one point Vivian asked the demon its name. The demon seemed to emerge from Kevin, she says, speaking its name in Latin in a very deep voice. When I ask Vivian what the name was, she goes silent for a moment. "I really wouldn't want to say that name," she says. I ask her if she could spell the name. "I really don't even want to pronounce it. I don't even want to give it the recognition."

&bull &bull &bull

It is too early to assess what long-term impact Kevin's deliverances might have on him. However, Vincent Cervantes, a 22-year-old from Southern California, has a little more distance from his own experience with exorcism, and his struggles suggest that the psychological effects can be lasting.

During the summer of 2008, while at UC Santa Barbara, Cervantes had a nightmare and woke in tears. The dream, which recurs to this day, replayed the exorcism he had undergone two years earlier in his pastor's candlelit office. The preacher and three officials of the Assemblies of God church prayed over him, anointing his forehead with oil and pressing on his chest. A metal bucket sat under Cervantes' chair to catch his vomit. After two hours, the men performing the rite began speaking in tongues.

"I fell out of the chair and was flat on the ground, crying a lot," Cervantes says. "I had started speaking in tongues too. My body started thrusting. I was pretty sure it was a demon causing me to thrust." He remembers repeating the following mantra: "Shandra si piara ma lalio shandrasi." He had, and has, no idea what it might mean. After a while, the men helped Cervantes stand. "They all gave me a hug," he says, "and we cried together."

Two weeks later, when he found himself attracted to a male student, Cervantes blamed himself. "I felt I had failed God," he says. "Nothing, not even an exorcism, can fix me. In my mind I was going to go to hell. I became very suicidal. I absolutely hated myself."

Eventually, he sought counseling. His therapist told him that his depression was caused by a suppressed traumatic experience. Once the nightmares began, his memory came flooding back. "This is how I started recalling the exorcism," he says. "Every time I'd dream it, I'd remember another detail." As he did, Cervantes unraveled—he lost weight, began spending whole days in bed, and suffered from flu-like symptoms much of the time.

Cervantes, who is a student at UC Riverside, is now at peace with being gay and remains a devout Christian. He also bears no ill will toward the preacher who performed his deliverance. "He was acting out of love," he says. "He did this because he cared about me. But he did more harm than good."

&bull &bull &bull

Deliverance has always been a part of Kevin Robinson's spritual life, as it has for millions of Americans who believe demons cause eating disorders, infidelity, addiction, and many other sinful activities. "I've been delivered from a lot of things," Kevin says. "I used to get really bad headaches—I got prayer for that. My mom said I lied too much, and she prayed over me for it to stop."

Kevin is a lifelong member of the Holy Ghost Temple Church. The third of five children, he grew up 15 minutes away in Enfield, Connecticut. His uncle has led the parish for more than 20 years. His mother is an elder, and his father, Bertrum, holds the title of minister, a position slightly lower in the church hierarchy.

Vivian Robinson does not believe that Kevin was born gay. "God never makes mistakes," she says. She believes that a rapist passed a homosexual spirit to her son when he was 16. Kevin acknowledges that the rape occurred but denies that it is what made him gay.

By then he had already been having sexual feelings toward other boys for several years. In his mind, what he felt was "wrong" and "a sin," and he believed "you could even possibly go to hell for it." At first, he did not tell his parents about it. Soon after he was raped, he began dating a boy. Tired of hiding his sexuality, he told his mother that he was gay.

"No, you're not," she responded. As they argued, she opened the Bible to the chapters that she said proved homosexuality was an abomination and a sin.

To Kevin's surprise, his father was calm when Kevin came out to him. "That's okay," Kevin recalls his father saying.

However, someone at the church came across Kevin's MySpace page, on which he made it clear he was gay, and told his uncle, Pastor Stovall. Stovall's wife, who died last year, was the first to ask Kevin if he wanted to be delivered.

"I said no," Kevin says, "because I didn't think this had to do with being delivered." But one Sunday, he started having doubts. Scared that he might indeed be possessed, Kevin came forward when Stovall called him up for prayer. Stovall and a group of eight ministers placed their hands on Kevin's body and head and pressed hard.

"In the name of Jesus, you've got to leave!" Stovall called out. "Right now! Set him free!"

Kevin fell to the floor. At his uncle's urging, he called on Christ to help him. "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus," Kevin repeated.

"And then I stop," Kevin recalls calmly. "Then I get up. I don't know—I feel the same way." He was still attracted to men.

That was just the first of the church's attempts to exorcise the gay demons that were believed to be possessing Kevin.

"Another way for them to heal you is to get the Holy Ghost," he says. "It's when you call on Jesus over and over again and you purge—the Lord comes and he fills you with the Holy Ghost and you start to foam at the mouth."

Kevin recalls one instance when he began to foam at the mouth. "There's spit, a form of spit, but they say it's sin coming out of you," he says. "You're being cleansed. You foam for a while and then it stops. That's when the tongues comethe sign that you've received the Holy Ghost."

Kevin found himself speaking in tongues several times. The phenomenon, also known as glossolalia, is mysterious and disputed. To the believer it is a holy language passed down from God. To the skeptic it is a nonsensical but structured jumble of sounds. For his part, Kevin believes it is a spiritual gift. "You feel good," he says. "You feel like the power of the Lord is inside of you. You feel . . . happy."

You do not necessarily become straight, however.

As each successive exorcism failed to cast the gay demons from him, Kevin spiraled into a deep depression. His mother forced him to stop seeing his boyfriend—"the one person in the world who could understand me." Kevin, who was five feet nine at the time, began losing weight, getting down to 113 pounds. At high school one day he began to have a nervous breakdown—he was unable to eat, he couldn't stay sitting down, his thoughts were a manic eruption that made him think his head would explode. Soon after, he was admitted to a children's hospital in Hartford for three months.

When he got home, Kevin began to experiment with dressing in drag, which infuriated his father. (Bertrum Robinson declined to be interviewed for this story.) "He told me to be a man and grow up," Kevin says. "'Stop acting like a sissy. . . . Stop acting like a fag.'"

One day, when Kevin was 18, he arrived at a midweek service wearing makeup, a black-and-light-brown wig, tight women's jeans, and a black women's V-neck shirt. The church elders refused to allow him into the building. The following week his aunt implored him to be exorcised, but this time he refused.