BOSTON (CN) – Evangelist pastor Scott Lively cannot strike criticism over his anti-gay speech from a ruling that otherwise favored him, the First Circuit ruled.
Lively brought the challenge before the federal appeals court last year, just days after U.S. District Judge Michael Ponsor cleared the onetime Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate of a suit alleging crimes against humanity.
A group called Sexual Minorities of Uganda had leveled the claims against Liveley in 2012, contending that Lively’s visit to the East African nation was directly responsible for Uganda’s passage of a law that broadened its criminalization of same-sex relations.
In 2010, the group’s advocacy officer was bludgeoned to death in his home four months after a tabloid newspaper outed him in an article espousing Lively’s views.
Judge Ponsor granted Lively summary judgment, finding no jurisdiction to entertain SMUG’s allegations under the Alien Tort Statute, but Lively took offense at the court’s criticism of what it Aled his dangerous “crackpot bigotry.”
“The district court purported to put Lively on par with the most heinous mass-murders known to humankind,” Lively said in a brief to the circuit.
Rejecting the appeal Friday, a three-judge panel found that Ponsor’s remarks had no bearing on the ruling.
“In his most loudly bruited claim of error, Lively beseeches us to purge certain unflattering statements from the district court’s dispositive opinion,” U.S. Circuit Judge Bruce Selya wrote for the panel. “None of these statements, though, have any bearing on the analytical foundations of the dispositive order or impact the result. The statements are, therefore, dicta and, as such, they lack any binding or preclusive effect.”
Lively, who is seeking the Republican nomination against Massachusetts’ incumbent Republican governor, was pleased with the ruling.
“I am delighted with the ruling from the appeals court inasmuch as my goal in appealing my win in the SMUG v. Lively case was to prevent Judge Ponsor’s extraneous unprofessional comments from being used in U.S. or foreign courts as grounds for persecuting other pro-family Christians,” Lively said in an email.
Lively’s attorney, Horatio Mihet of Liberty Counsel, celebrated the ruling as an invalidation of the district judge’s criticism.
“The Court of Appeals has legally cleared Lively’s name, stating unequivocally that Judge Ponsor’s baseless findings and insults have no legal effect whatsoever,” Mihet said in a statement. “The decision also thwarts SMUG’s promise to weaponize Judge Ponsor’s attack against Lively, leaving SMUG with what it always deserved from this case, which is nothing.”