Ugandan LGBTQ org sues U.S. evangelist for inciting persecution

A Ugandan LGBTQ rights group has filed a lawsuit in U.S. federal court against a Massachusetts-based evangelist, Scott Lively, for violating international law by inciting the persecution of gay men and lesbians in Uganda.

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) is representing the organization Sexual Minorities in Uganda (SMUG), using the Alien Tort Statute (ATS),  “a powerful legal tool that allows foreign victims of human rights abuse – in this case SMUG – to seek civil remedies in U.S. courts.

SMUG is suing Scott Lively for the persecution they have faced as a result of his involvement in a conspiracy to deprive them of their rights based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.” CCR explains that “Persecution is defined in international law as the ‘intentional and severe deprivation of fundamental  rights contrary to international law by reason of the identity of the group or collectivity’.”

Lively is the founder and president of Abiding Truth Ministries and the author of  The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party, which claims Nazism was inspired by “homosexuals,” and Seven Steps to Recruit-Proof Your Child, a guide against “pro-homosexual indoctrination.”

And, according to SMUG and CCR, Lively is the man who inspired Uganda’s “Anti-Homosexuality Bill,” often referred to as  the “Kill the Gays Bill,” which would criminalize homosexuality, impose the death penalty on homosexuals, and sentence people who failed to report on “homosexuality” to life in prison.

The bill, which is pending, was first presented by an associate of Lively, David Bahati, only one month after Lively visited Uganda to spread the gospel on the dangers of the gay agenda. On his trip, he addressed a groups of lawyers, members of Parliament, universities, secondary schools and Christian leaders and spoke at a three-day conference. Frank Mugisha of SMUG told the New York Times that before Lively’s 2009 visit, the LGBTQ were “looked at as different,” but that “no one bothered them.” Since his visit, “People were being reported to the police as homosexuals, were thrown out by their families or thrown out by the church.”

Pamela C. Spees, one of the lawyers representing SMUG, emphasizes that Lively’s ideas, not his actions, are the basis of the suit:  “This is not just based on his speech…. It’s based on his conduct. Belief is one thing, but actively trying to harm and deprive other people of their rights is the definition of persecution.”

The lawsuit also names four Ugandan co-conspirators: Stephen Langa and Martin Ssempa, evangelists active in the anti-gay movement; David Bahati, the legislator who sponsored the bill; and James Buturo, the former minister of ethics and a proponent of the legislation.

Here is a scary video of Lively, discussing the bill, which he hearts, though he’s not a fan of the death penalty part.

Here is one about the slain Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato, and here is “Anatomy of Persecution,” an interactive timeline CCR put together.


Born and raised on the mean streets of New York City’s Upper West Side, Katie Halper is a comic, writer, blogger, satirist and filmmaker based in New York. Katie graduated from The Dalton School (where she teaches history) and Wesleyan University (where she learned that labels are for jars.) A director of Living Liberally and co-founder/performer in Laughing Liberally, Katie has performed at Town Hall, Symphony Space, The Culture Project, D.C. Comedy Festival, all five Netroots Nations, and The Nation Magazine Cruise, where she made Howard Dean laugh! and has appeared with Lizz Winstead, Markos Moulitsas, The Yes Men, Cynthia Nixon and Jim Hightower. Her writing and videos have appeared in The New York Times, Comedy Central, The Nation Magazine, Gawker, Nerve, Jezebel, the Huffington Post, Alternet and Katie has been featured in/on NY Magazine, LA Times, In These Times, Gawker,Jezebel, MSNBC, Air America, GritTV, the Alan Colmes Show, Sirius radio (which hung up on her once) and the National Review, which called Katie “cute and some what brainy.” Katie co-produced Tim Robbins’s film Embedded, (Venice Film Festival, Sundance Channel); Estela Bravo’s Free to Fly (Havana Film Festival, LA Latino Film Festival); was outreach director for The Take, Naomi Klein/Avi Lewis documentary about Argentine workers (Toronto & Venice Film Festivals, Film Forum); co-directed New Yorkers Remember the Spanish Civil War, a video for Museum of the City of NY exhibit, and wrote/directed viral satiric videos including Jews/ Women/ Gays for McCain.

Katie is a writer, comedian, filmmaker, and New Yorker.

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