SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (CN) – A Ugandan rights group claims in Federal Court that an evangelical minister organized a decade-long campaign “to persecute persons on the basis of their gender and/or sexual orientation and gender identity,” including campaigning for a Ugandan law that makes homosexuality punishable by death.
Sexual Minorities Uganda sued Scott Lively, individually and as president of Abiding Truth Ministries, alleging conspiracy to commit the crime against humanity of persecution, in a joint criminal enterprise.
Sexual Minorities Uganda claims Lively, “a U. S.-based attorney, author, evangelical minister and self-described world-leading expert on the ‘gay movement,'” instigated Ugandan politicians and anti-gay movement leaders to persecute Ugandan gay rights activists and demonize them in the media.
Lively has frequently depicted gay people as “genocidal”, “psychopathic”, “exceptionally brutal and savage” and as “child predators,” according to the 47-page complaint.
“Lively proclaims himself one of the world’s leading experts on ‘the gay movement,’ which he describes as an ‘evil’, ‘highly organized army of social engineers with a single purpose’ and ‘the most dangerous social and political movement of our time,'” the complaint states. “He has written a number of books in support of his goal to deny the humanity of gays and lesbians and to strip them of their fundamental rights.
“In ‘The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party,’ he and his co-author argue that the rise of Nazism – with its resultant horrors – was engineered and driven by a violent and fascistic gay movement in Germany. In ‘The Poisoned Stream,’ he claims to have discovered, ‘through various leads, a dark and powerful homosexual presence in other historical periods: the Spanish Inquisition, the French “Reign of Terror,” the era of South African apartheid, and the two centuries of American slavery’. He has also written and published ‘Redeeming the Rainbow,’ which he describes as a comprehensive textbook that explains, among other things, ‘the urgent, escalating and imminent danger this movement represents to all aspects of Christian civilization through the world’ and identifies comprehensive strategies for how to combat it. Elsewhere, he has blithely attributed the genocide in Rwanda to the ‘gay movement.'”
Founded in 2004, Sexual Minorities Uganda is an umbrella organization whose members advocate on behalf of sexual minorities and fight HIV/AIDS in homosexual communities.
“In large part due to defendant Lively’s contributions to the conspiracy to persecute LGBTI persons in Uganda, plaintiff SMUG, as an entity, as well as its individual staff-members and member organizations, have suffered severe deprivations of fundamental rights,” the complaint states. “Their very existence has been demonized through a coordinated campaign, which Lively has largely initiated, instigated and directed, to attribute to the ‘genocidal’ ‘gay movement’ an irrepressible predilection to commit rape and child sexual abuse. As set out in more detail below, they have endured severe discrimination in virtually every meaningful aspect of their civil and political lives; their association has been criminalized; their advocacy on issues central to their health and political participation has been suppressed and punished; and they have been subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. As a result, many individual members of SMUG and its constituent organizations live in persistent fear of harassment, arbitrary arrest and physical harm, including death.”
Lively’s anti-gay activism in Uganda began in 2002, when he first visited the country. According to the complaint, Lively enlisted Ugandan anti-gay activists, ministers and politicians to help with his campaign “to dehumanize, demonize, silence, and further criminalize” the gay community.
In Uganda, homosexuality is a crime punishable by jail time.
Sexual Minorities Uganda claims that Lively doubled his efforts after a 2008 court victory for gay rights activists in Uganda, which upheld basic rights for gay and lesbian people.
“Spurred to action to counter the prospect of basic legal protections for LGBTI individuals, Lively and his co-conspirators, [anti-gay activists] Langa, Ssempa, Minister of Ethics and Integrity James Buturo and Member of Parliament David Bahati, coordinated a dramatic, far-reaching response, which Lively and Langa would later boast had the ‘effect of a nuclear bomb,'” the complaint states.
“Lively’s 2009 work in Uganda and his call to arms to fight against an ‘evil’ and ‘genocidal’, ‘pedophilic’ ‘gay movement’, which he likened 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 expressed, ‘We must exterminate homosexuals before they exterminate society.’
“Among the shocking, repressive measures undertaken after 2009, is the introduction of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (also referred to as the ‘Kill the Gays Bill’), which proposed the death penalty for a second conviction of consensual sex between adults of the same gender, and imprisonment for failure to report on others suspected of being ‘homosexual’, and for advocacy in any way on issues related to homosexuality. While Lively has half-heartedly tried to distance himself from the death penalty provision of the bill, he still considers it the ‘lesser of two evils’ as compared to recognizing the humanity of LGBTI individuals or permitting their speech or advocacy.
“In 2010, a tabloid newspaper – parroting characterizations of gays and lesbians repeatedly made to Ugandan officials by Lively – published an article ‘outing’ SMUG advocacy officer David Kato (and others), under the headline, ‘Hang Them’. Four months later, Mr. Kato was bludgeoned to death in his home. On Feb. 14, 2012, a private training on human rights and public health conducted by SMUG and one of its member organizations was raided by Ugandan government officials who declared the gathering ‘illegal’ and called those gathered there ‘terrorists.’ The member organization’s executive director had to flee in order to avoid arrest and detention.” (Parentheses in complaint).
Sexual Minorities Uganda adds: “The context of Lively’s actions is important. His insidious rhetoric and attempts at overt discrimination against, and ultimately eradication of, a minority community might not take hold in many places not also struggling in the way Uganda has been in the battle against the spread of HIV/AIDS, poverty and armed conflict. Yet, it is specifically because he knew Uganda presented fertile ground and – through his willing accomplices with access to political power – a realistic opportunity to meaningfully provoke the persecution of the LGBTI community, that he focused much of his decade-long efforts there.”
SMUG claims Lively’s campaign against homosexuality attracted media attention and prompted Ugandan anti-gay leaders to further suppress the rights of homosexuals.
“In 2002, coinciding with Lively’s first visits to Uganda to participate in the first national anti-gay conference, substantial media attention began to report on and further sensationalize Lively’s characterization of pornography as a ‘tool of “gay” social engineering’ designed to advance its goal of sexual anarchy,” the complaint states.
“In 2004, Ugandan officials – in particular Lively co-conspirator Minister of Information James Buturo – begin efforts to exclude LGBTI persons from HIV/AIDS prevention outreach and services in the country. This effort denied individuals critical public health education and awareness around LGBTI-specific HIV/AIDS transmission and prevention, and access to health services.
“On July 6, 2005, the state-owned newspaper, ‘New Vision,’ ran an article urging that ‘[t]he police should visit the holes [sic] mentioned in the press, spy on the perverts, arrest and prosecute them. Relevant government departments must outlaw or restrict websites, magazines, newspapers and television channels promoting immorality – including homosexuality, lesbianism, pornography, etc.'” (Brackets in complaint).
Sexual Minorities Uganda claims gay activists were harassed, threatened and arrested for peacefully protesting the exclusion of homosexuals from the government’s HIV programs.
It claims activists were subject to cruel and inhuman treatment while under arrest.
“By repeatedly characterizing the LGBTI community as rapists and murderers and child abusers – not to mention possessing the genocidal tendencies of the Nazis and Rwandan conspirators – Lively deliberately invited, induced and encouraged a proportional response from Ugandans – i.e., severe repression, arrest and certainly even violence,” the complaint states.
After a high-profile ruling by Uganda’s High Court in December 2008, that gays and lesbians “enjoyed the basic protections of law,” Lively and his co-conspirators escalated their campaign of persecution, according to the complaint.
“On April 29, 2009, little more than one month after the anti-gay conference at which Lively equated homosexuality with sexual violence against children, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was introduced in the Ugandan Parliament,” the complaint states. “The bill proposes the death penalty for crimes of ‘aggravated homosexuality’, including for ‘repeat offenders’ of ‘homosexuality.’ Under the bill, adults who engaged in consensual sex with someone of the same gender could be executed. Consistent with Lively’s strategy espoused in the anti-gay conference and elsewhere, the bill also proposed criminalizing LGBTI advocacy, as the ‘promotion of homosexuality.'”
A newer version of the bill retains the death penalty, and expands the criminalization of association with or advocacy for homosexuals.
Sexual Minorities Uganda says the bill would make its work and its mere existence illegal.
The organization claims it wants to “prevent the further escalation of persecution in Uganda before it reaches an even more lethal stage.”
It seeks compensatory and punitive damages.
Sexual Minorities Uganda is represented by Luke Ryan, with Sasson, Turnbull & Hoose, of Northampton.