American community in Springfield, MA turns out in support of Ugandan activists' lawsuit against
American Christian Evangelical Scott Lively.
In the most basic way, the demonstrator to the right boils down the essential question that the US Federal court will be considering should Sexual Minorities Uganda v. Lively
proceed. Is persecution a crime?
American Evangelical leader Scott Lively of Massachusetts appeared in Federal Court today for the first hearing of a lawsuit filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). They are suing him under the Alien Tort statute. Wikipedia describes the Alien Tort Statute (28 U.S.C. § 1350 as thus:
This statute is notable for allowing U.S. courts to hear human-rights cases brought by foreign citizens for conduct committed outside the United States.
From the Center for Constitutional Right's release:
The lawsuit, brought by the advocacy group Sexual Minorities Uganda, alleges that Lively’s actions over the past decade, in collaboration with key Ugandan government officials and religious leaders, are responsible for depriving LGBTI people in Uganda of their fundamental human rights based solely on identity. This is the definition of persecution under international law and is deemed a crime against humanity. U.S. law allows foreign citizens to sue Americans for crimes against humanity under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed the suit, the first such case brought to protect the rights of LGBTI people, on behalf Sexual Minorities Uganda.
“Coming face to face with the man who has caused us so much pain is important to me. We want him held accountable for the escalating homophobia and persecution in Uganda. This case is about making it clear to people who have exported their hate agenda to Uganda that their actions have a very real effect on us and they must stop,” said Pepe Julian Onziema, the Advocacy and Policy Officer at Sexual Minorities Uganda.
Lively is the author of “The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party” and “Seven Steps to Recruit-Proof Your Child.” Since 2002, he has traveled to Uganda, Latvia, Moldova, and other countries to consult with lawmakers and political leaders on anti-gay efforts and legislation, including the notorious the “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda.
Lively's book paints a false picture of the Holocaust, claiming Hitler was gay and so were his closet confidants, and essentially laying the blame for the Holocaust on the "radical homosexual agenda." Though a piece of fiction, completely without historical foundation and widely debunked, The Pink Swastika
has become a tenent of anti-gay activism. It is referenced both in Uganda and in America, by leaders such as American Family Association's Bryan Fischer,
who is still referencing it as recently as 2011.
Lively embarked on a series of missions in Uganda starting in 2009, that focused on the dangers of homosexuality. Many political leaders of Uganda were included. This ultimately culminated in the infamous "Kill the Gays" bill introduction into the Ugandan parliament in 2009.
Lively, who is represented by the Liberty Counsel, the legal arm of the university founded by Jerry Falwell, filed a motion to dismiss the case last year, arguing his activity in Uganda is protected under the First Amendment. Today, plaintiffs argued that Lively’s actions went well beyond the exercise of his First Amendment rights when he began to work in Uganda to remove fundamental civil rights from LGBTI people, including their right to free speech and assembly, and to criminalize organizations like Sexual Minorities Uganda.
There was no resolution on Lively's motion to dismiss.
After hearing argument by both sides today, the Judge reserved his decision. A further and more detailed report shall follow this report. In the meantime the Judge has reserved Judgment for a later date as to whether or not the case will be dismissed or proceed to trial.
Judge was very receptive to our argument. He said he is trying to decide whether to wait for #SCOTUS Kiobel before ruling. #stopthehate
Attorneys writing on Reuter's blog explain Kiobel as such:
In Kiobel, Nigerian plaintiffs accuse the Royal Dutch Petroleum and its affiliate Shell Transport and Trading Company PLC, of complicity in the arrest, torture and killing of protestors by government forcesin Nigeria’s oil-rich Ogoni region. Kiobel puts two crucial issues before the Supreme Court: (1) whether corporations may be held liable for violations of international human rights norms under the ATS, and (2) whether the ATS allows U.S. federal courts to hear claims based on activity in a foreign country.
after the hearing:
If #ScottLively were doing this in US w result that #LGBT groups were raided & staff arrested, those groups could sue under 42 U.S.C 1985(3)
#ScottLively lawyer's attempt to obscure case by reliance on 1st amend ironic since only party whose #freespeech was violated is @SMUG2004
I'm not a lawyer. I will freely admit the scope of the U.S. Alien Tort Statute (ATS) is way above my pay grade to comprehend.
As a general principle, I think the CCR has its work cut out for it. Much of the evidence against Lively is largely words and rhetoric. I imagine it's a heavy lift to get the judiciary to consider such a crime. Particularly in light that Ku Klux Klan rallies and Fred Phelps' protests of the military funerals have been found to be protected forms of free speech.
CCR counters this line of thought on Twitter:
This case isn't about #ScottLively speech but underlying activity w #Uganda counterparts to deny #LGBT ppl fundamental rights. #StoptheHate
#ScottLively case isn't "just" about “hate preach”- it's about having crossed the line into working to deprive #LGBT #Uganda of basic rights
So, on the other hand, perhaps CCR can demonstrate what actions
Lively and his ministry took to draft, introduce and move the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, aka as the "Kill The Gays" bill through the Ugandan parliament. And Lively did leave his fingerprints all over it, as did many others in the American Evangelical community.
These are demonstrable actions that one can argue have had horrible consequences, such as vilification in the media.
The Newspaper Rolling Stone in Uganda Has Published a List of the Country's 100 'Top' Homosexuals With the Headline 'Hang Them'
Photos, full names and addresses were also posted in the paper.
According to the Washington Post, since the publication of the list a few days ago, four men have been attacked and many have gone into hiding in fear of their lives. One person had stones thrown at their house as well.
There have also been a spate of state arrests of LGBT activists in Uganda making the news of late.
There are still some legal questions up in the air even under in the American legal system. LGBT community has thus far been denied a finding of "suspect class" by the Supreme Court. The pragmatic affect is the denial of the LGBT community's inherent civil rights is still something of an open question as to whether it is legal even under American law. Obviously we haven't resolved yet whether the Constitution allows the denial of marriage, although the Supreme Court has declare it a right. In the case of "Don't ask, don't tell," LGBT servicemembers were undeniably punished for the exercise of free speech; the question of whether that was legal and appropriate was left unresolved after the legislative repeal bill of 2010 mooted a case headed for the Supreme Court. Proposed laws like Tennessee's "Don't say gay" law and efforts to block LGBT student groups impinge on LGBT Americans rights to free speech and assembly and association.
Of course in this case, we are talking about human rights, not civil rights. An important distinction when Ugandan LGBT people are denied in addition to marriage, speech or assembly also basic freedom and life. (Homosexuality is punishable by the state by prison there.)
A good sign for the plaintiffs is the Center for Constitutional Rights are no hacks. If they felt the case was worth taking, they must have been somewhat confident in their odds of ultimately prevailing.
Whether the plaintiffs eventually win or lose, there is in my opinion a lot of value in placing the American Evangelical's international meddling in global politics in the spotlight in this way.
It will be up to the Courts to decide if Lively can be held legally accountable for what he has done and I guess we will see. But when most people consider whether what he did was "right," the answer should be obvious.
Raging grannies rage at Scott Lively.
Center for Constitutional Rights also reports:
Guards said this was the most ppl they have ever had at the court, overflow took up the other 2 courtrooms. Lots of support!
Update: A local outlet
has a less optimistic take on the judge's demeanor:
During a 90-minute hearing in U.S. District Court, [Judge Michael] Ponsor said the lawsuit filed by Sexual Minorities Uganda against the Springfield minister poses a test of Lively’s free-speech protection and the rights of sexual minorities to equal protection under the law.
But the judge said the plaintiffs needed to show a connection between Lively’s anti-gay advocacy in Uganda and illegal acts committed against gays in the country.
“I’m frankly struggling to see what behavior beyond expressive behavior” of Lively violated federal law, the judge said during the hearing attended by about 150 people, including a prominent Ugandan activist.
It mentions that the judge was also skeptical about dismissing the case saying the Federal bar for dismissals is high. So it may perhaps proceed.