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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), a gay rights group based in Kampala, Uganda, has sued homophobic pastor Scott Lively “for crime against humanity,” according to the lawsuit filed here on Wednesday in U.S. District Court.
Lively is being sued as an individual and as president of Abiding Truth Ministries, a conservative Christian organization based in Temecula, Calif.
Abiding Truth Ministries is called an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Lively is also owner of Holy Grounds coffee shop in Springfield, Mass., where locals have complained that truants congregate.
Attorneys for SMUG are using the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) , which provides federal jurisdiction for “any civil action by an alien, for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.”
Lively is an “attorney, author, evangelical minister and self-described world-leading expert on the ‘gay movement,’ for the decade-long campaign he has waged, in coordination with his Ugandan counterparts, to persecute persons on the basis of their gender and/or sexual orientation and gender identity,” the lawsuit states.
SMUG is accusing Lively of demonizing LGBT people in Uganda through a coordinated campaign that “Lively has largely initiated, instigated and directed” with the cooperation of homophobic politicians and clergy.
The lawsuit details Lively’s decade of influence in Uganda’s faith community and names known anti-gay pastors Stephen Langa and Martin Ssempa, MP David Bahati and James Buturo, Uganda’s Minister of Ethics and Integrity, as his partners to “implement his strategies to dehumanize, demonize, silence, and further criminalize the LGBTI community.”
Since 2009, Uganda’s Parliament has tried to pass Bahati’s so-called “Kill The Gays” bill that includes the death penalty for convictions of certain crimes. The bill has gotten international condemnation from the U.S., United Kingdom and much of the western world.
SMUG says that as a result of Lively’s homophobic campaign, its members have been persecuted and deprived of fundamental human rights.
For example, David Kato, the internationally known equality advocate for SMUG, was murdered on Jan. 26, 2011, four months after his photo was published by a tabloid exposing LGBT people in Uganda with a banner headline: “Hang them.”
The lawsuit provides breathtaking details about how fanning the flames of homophobia has turned Uganda into the most dangerous place in the world for gay people.
“Lively’s 2009 work in Uganda and his call to arms to fight against an ‘evil’ and ‘genocidal,’ ‘pedophilic’ ‘gay movement,’ which he liked to the Nazis and Rwandan murderers, ignited a cultural panic and atmosphere of terror that radically intensified the climate of hatred in which Lively’s goals of persecution could advance. Shortly after Lively’s pivotal 2009 work in Uganda, one Member of Parliament [Christopher Kibansanga, Shadow Minister of Information and National Guidance] expressed, ‘We must exterminate homosexuals before they exterminate society.’”
The lawsuit cites the raid by Ugandan authorities on Feb. 14, 2012, of a meeting by LGBT activists in Entebbe. Simon Lokodo, State Minister for Ethics and Integrity, burst into a conference, closed it down and ordered the arrest of organizer Jacqueline Kasha, who escaped safely.
SMUG asks the court for a trial jury and for compensatory as well as punitive and exemplary damages. The suit also seeks a declaratory judgment holding that Lively’s conduct was in violation of the laws of nations.
The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle, president of San Diego-based St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, is very familiar with the situation in Uganda through his ministry with Bishop Christopher Senyonjo from Kampala.
"The lawsuit is justified," Ogle said, "and we have video evidence of Lively's lies and misinformation about LGBT people in an actual Kampala hotel where the seminal ideas of the Bahati Bill were launched.
"If SMUG is successful in proving Lively was a key factor and largely responsible for the current wave of homophobia in Uganda, it will change not only history but the way we see religious-based homophobia in this country as well," Ogle said.
"Even if SMUG does not win the case, it will be important for many of the beliefs and practices of the Christian Right to be given their day in court. I hoped it is televised."