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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 11, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 2
Lively in the dock - Homophobic pastor on trial for 'crimes against humanity'
Section One
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Lively in the dock - Homophobic pastor on trial for 'crimes against humanity'

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Pastor Scott Lively of Abiding Truth Ministries, a California-based anti-Gay hate group, is now on trial in a Massachusetts federal court, charged with crimes against humanity.

Lively's trial under the Alien Tort Statute began January 7. The law allows U.S. courts to hear human rights cases brought by foreign nationals and involving crimes committed outside the United States.

The plaintiff in this case is Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), which charges Lively with inciting 'persecution, arrest, torture, and murder of homosexuals in Uganda.' SMUG is represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights, while Lively is represented by another anti-Gay hate group, Liberty Counsel.

DISMISSAL MOTION DENIED
Lively's attorneys have asked U.S. District Court Judge Michael Ponsor to dismiss the charges because the federal court lacks jurisdiction to decide the case, and because Lively enjoys a First Amendment right to free speech.

Ponsor said he would not rule on the first claim, because the U.S. Supreme Court is already reviewing the Alien Tort Statute in the case of Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, a case charging the oil company with multiple human rights violations in Nigeria.

On the free speech issue, the judge said SMUG 'needed to show a more concrete example of misbehavior to justify continuation of the lawsuit,' than merely preaching against Gay people.

'As I look at the complaint, I'm frankly struggling to see what the actionable behavior is here,' Ponsor said about SMUG's filing.

On the other hand, Ponsor also declined to throw the case out before trial, saying that courts have set a high legal threshold for dismissing cases. He did not set a date for ruling on the free speech issue.

A CLIMATE OF HATE
According to court documents, SMUG alleges that beginning in 2002, Lively conspired with religious and political leaders in Uganda to whip up anti-Gay hysteria with warnings that Gay men would sodomize African children and corrupt their culture.

Lively's efforts resulted in the notorious 'Kill the Gays' bill introduced in 2009, SMUG charges. The bill was introduced by MP David Bahati, one of Lively's Ugandan contacts. Bahati's bill was withdrawn after an outcry from the United States and European nations that are among major aid donors to Uganda, but a revised bill was reintroduced last month.

Lively claims that he never advocated violence against Gays and advised therapy for them, not punishment.

He said in an AP interview before the SMUG suit was filed in March 2012 that he was not opposed to laws against homosexual conduct, but that imprisonment and the death penalty were too harsh. Lively was one of a group of American evangelicals who held an anti-Gay conference in Kampala, Uganda, in 2009, after which the bill was introduced.

Lively is also the founder of the right-wing Watchmen on the Walls organization, based in Riga, Latvia. The group promotes so-called 'conversion therapy' and has been accused of violent assaults against LGBT people both in Latvia and in the U.S. The Watchmen are reportedly active in cities that have large communities of immigrants from former Soviet bloc countries, including Seattle and Portland.

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