Africa

U.S. court: Pastor is ‘crackpot bigot,’ but not ours to punish

Scott Lively is an author of "'The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party," which promotes the discredited view that homosexuals were to blame for many of evils of Nazi Germany. (Photo courtesy of GodDiscussion.com)

Anti-LGBTI American pastor Scott Lively violated international law during his Ugandan crusade in 2009, but won’t be held accountable in a U.S. court. He is an author of “‘The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party,” which promotes the discredited view that homosexuals were to blame for many of evils of Nazi Germany. (Photo courtesy of GodDiscussion.com)

(WITH JUNE 9 UPDATE) A federal court in the United States on June 5 declared that homophobic Pastor Scott Lively violated international law through his anti-LGBTI provocations in Uganda, but decided that he could not be punished for his actions in a U.S. court.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the LGBTI rights group Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), argued that Lively committed crimes against humanity by advocating for and contributing to the drafting of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, which originally called for the death penalty for homosexuality.

Frank Mugisha (Photo courtesy CBC Radio)

Frank Mugisha (Photo courtesy CBC Radio)

“At first glance this ruling seems like a loss but, in many ways, it is a win – it thoroughly denounces Lively’s actions and conduct,” said the legal team from the Center for Constitutional Rights, which supported SMUG in its lawsuit.

“This case is a win for SMUG,” said Frank Mugisha, SMUG Executive Director. “The court’s ruling recognized the dangers resulting from the hatred that Scott Lively and other extremist Christians from the U.S. have exported to my country. By having a court recognize that persecution of LGBTI people amounts to a crime against humanity, we have already been able to hold Lively to account and reduce his dangerous influence in Uganda.”

In an email, the CCR lawyers stated about the ruling by the U.S. District Court in Springfield, Mass., USA:

We wanted to share some clarifying thoughts about the import of the court’s ruling in SMUG’s case against Lively. The ruling [can] be found here.

Pastor Scott Lively "worked to criminalize not just the LGBTI community’s existence but any possibility of advocating for their right to exist,” said CCR Senior Staff Attorney Pam Spees. (Photo courtesy of the Center for Constitutional Rights)

Pastor Scott Lively “worked to criminalize not just the LGBTI community’s existence but any possibility of advocating for their right to exist,” said CCR Senior Staff Attorney Pam Spees. (Photo courtesy of the Center for Constitutional Rights)

As you know, the court allowed Lively’s motion for summary judgment, which resulted in the dismissal of SMUG’s case.

We know this is initially a disappointing result, but it’s important to note that the court discussed, in strong and clear terms, how the evidence shows that Lively in fact aided and abetted the persecution of Uganda’s LGBTI community. The court also reaffirmed its previous landmark holding in this case – that persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity amounts to a crime against humanity under international law.  In a key passage, the court made this clear:

“Anyone reading this memorandum should make no mistake. The question before the court is not whether Defendant’s actions in aiding and abetting efforts to demonize, intimidate, and injure LGBTI people in Uganda constitute violations of international law. They do.”

The court explained that it was ruling on a much narrower and technical issue – whether Lively’s actions on American soil in pursuit of his campaign in Uganda were sufficient to bestow a U.S. court jurisdiction to hold him accountable. (“Jurisdiction” means the court’s ability to rule on an issue.)

In 2013 (after SMUG filed this case against Lively), the United States Supreme Court ruled in a different case, called Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Shell, that U.S. courts have limited ability to rule on human rights violations that occur in other countries. It was based on the Kiobel case that the court here dismissed SMUG’s lawsuit.  We believe that even with Kiobel’s limitations, SMUG’s case should have gone forward because Scott Lively is a U.S. citizen and contributed to the persecution in Uganda in part from the United States – and those two facts should give a U.S. court jurisdiction, but the court disagreed.

Apart from dismissing on this technical ground, [Judge Michael Ponsor] spent a lot time reviewing the evidence produced in this case and determined that Lively:  “aided and abetted a vicious and frightening campaign of repression against LGBTI persons in Uganda.”  The court also dismissed as ridiculous Lively’s key claims about “homosexuals” being responsible for the Holocaust and genocide and a threat to children.

Some more key quotes from the ruling:

  • “[Lively’s] crackpot bigotry could be brushed aside as pathetic, except for the terrible harm it can cause. The record in this case demonstrates that Defendant has worked with elements in Uganda who share some of his views to try to repress freedom of expression by LGBTI people in Uganda, deprive them of the protection of the law, and render their very existence illegal.”
  • The evidence “confirmed the nature of Defendant’s, on the one hand, vicious and, on the other hand, ludicrously extreme animus against LGBTI people and his determination to assist in persecuting them wherever they are, including Uganda. The evidence of record demonstrates that Defendant aided and abetted efforts (1) to restrict freedom of expression by members of the LBGTI community in Uganda, (2) to suppress their civil rights, and (3) to make the very existence of LGBTI people in Uganda a crime.”

We know at first glance this ruling seems like a loss, but in many ways, it is a win – it thoroughly denounces Lively’s actions and conduct. And it is a win not only for SMUG and the community in Uganda, but for those in other places where Lively has operated as well.

We’ll be working with SMUG to figure out the next steps, whether to appeal or pursue other claims in state court. …

UPDATE (June 9):

Lively announced that he will seek have Posner’s “prejudicial language” about his conduct removed from the court judgment. He will also ask the related, separate claims under state law dismissed with prejudice, which would mean that SMUG could not pursue the claims in state court.

 

Related information:

For a glimpse of the anti-LGBTI position:

Related articles:

 

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