Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Sunday, December 10, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Savaged by Judge, Anti-Gay Minister Appeals Court Win

Just days after a federal judge tossed the crimes-against-humanity suit against him, an anti-gay evangelist has brought an appeal to remove criticism of his hateful bigotry from the court record.

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (CN) - Just days after a federal judge tossed the crimes-against-humanity suit against him, an anti-gay evangelist has brought an appeal to remove criticism of his hateful bigotry from the court record.

Scott Lively, an evangelical minister who once staged an unsuccessful gubernatorial bid in Massachusetts, has been under fire in the courts since his group Abiding Truth Ministries held an anti-gay workshop in Uganda.

Though the Ugandan high court had affirmed in 2008 that lesbians and gays enjoy basic legal protections, LGBT rights took a step back in the East African nation after Lively’s visit.

In a 2012 federal complaint, an organization called Sexual Minorities Uganda blamed Lively for Uganda’s passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill to broaden the criminalization of same-sex relations. The group says its advocacy officer was bludgeoned to death in his home four months after a tabloid newspaper outed him in a 2010 article espousing Lively’s views.

U.S. District Judge Michael Ponsor advanced the case twice over the years, but he bitterly handed Lively summary judgment on June 5.

“Anyone reading this memorandum should make no mistake,” the 25-page opinion states. “The question before the court is not whether defendant's actions in aiding and abetting efforts to demonize, intimidate, and injure LGBTI people in Uganda constitute violations of international law. They do. The much narrower and more technical question posed by defendant's motion is whether the limited actions taken by defendant on American soil in pursuit of his odious campaign are sufficient to give this court jurisdiction over plaintiff's claims. Since they are not sufficient, summary judgment is appropriate for this, and only this, reason.”

Lively now claims in the footnote of a June 8 notice of appeal that Ponsor went too far.

“Although this order granted summary judgment in [his] favor,” Lively said the First Circuit should intervene to clean up “certain extraneous but prejudicial language immaterial to the disposition of the case.”

Lively’s attorneys, Horatio Mihet with the Orlando firm Liberty Counsel, also contend that “the district court had no jurisdiction to entertain or enter” such language.

Just as summary judgment appeared to displease Lively, the minister’s opponents at SMUG, short for Sexual Minorities Uganda, met the court defeat with cheers.

“This case is a win for SMUG,” the group’s executive director, Frank Mugisha, said in a statement. “The court’s ruling recognized the dangers resulting from the hatred that Scott Lively and other extremist Christians from the US have exported to my country. By having a court recognize that persecution of LGBTI people amounts to a crime against humanity, we have already been able to hold Lively to account and reduce his dangerous influence in Uganda.”

Ponsor made his feelings about Lively apparent from the first page, calling the minister’s anti-gay campaign “vicious and frightening,” with positions that “range from the ludicrous to the abhorrent.”

“This crackpot bigotry could be brushed aside as pathetic, except for the terrible harm it can cause,” Ponsor wrote. “The record in this case demonstrates that defendant has worked with elements in Uganda who share some of his views to try to repress freedom of expression by LGBTI people in Uganda deprive them of the protection of the law, and render their very existence illegal. He has, for example, proposed twenty-year prison sentences for gay couples in Uganda who simply lead open, law-abiding lives.”

Ponsor was clear, however, that Lively cannot be held accountable for such actions under the Alien Tort Statute.

“The ATS provides no jurisdiction over a claim for injuries — however grievous — occurring entirely in a foreign country such as Uganda,” the ruling states.

Categories / Appeals, International, Religion

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.