Over the next few days, we will be hearing a lot about anti-gay activist Rev. Scott Lively of Springfield, MA. He has previously been the focus of activist outrage, and his organization Abiding Truth Ministries has been designated as a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
But on Monday, January 7th, he will appear in federal court in Springfield in an effort to dismiss a charge of "persecution" under international law.
Last Spring, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a civil suit in federal court under the Alien Tort Statute, which allows foreign victims of crimes under international law access to American courts. The first oral arguments in the case of Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG) vs. Lively will allow both sides to present their arguments in person for the first time. At issue will be Lively's Motion to Dismiss. (Lively is represented by the Christian Right legal group, Liberty Counsel.)
The case is likely to attract major media attention, in part because the Alien Tort Statute has never before been used in human rights cases involving sexual minorities, and because anti-gay persecution in Uganda has become a lighting rod issue due to the notorious "kill the gays" bill. ARISE for Social Justice is organizing a demonstration and if past is prologue, Lively's supporters will likely be out in force as well.
CCR Executive Director Vince Warren wrote recently:
Many Americans have heard of the infamous "Kill the Gays" bill in Uganda, which has been introduced in several parliamentary sessions since it arose out of an anti-gay conference that Scott Lively headlined in 2009. But the day-to-day reality for LGBT Ugandans is already violence, death threats, severe discrimination and oppression. Meetings of LGBT activists are raided and shut down, and advocates have been arrested for exercising their rights to speech, assembly and association. LGBT Ugandans' advocacy, indeed their existence, is already criminalized.
No one has done more to orchestrate this situation than Scott Lively. Since 2002, he has worked systematically to strip away human rights protections from LGBT people in Uganda and elsewhere around the world, to silence them and make it impossible for them to organize and defend their rights. While he peddles the usual, age-old lie that LGBT people are pedophiles in order to deliberately provoke the rage that feeds the growing repression and violence, he combines that myth with a new twist, that gays were also responsible for the Holocaust and that Hitler's Germany is what can happen when a gay movement grows unchecked.
Warren further wrote that Lively
"...long ago moved beyond "mere" hatemongering when he became a kind of persecution consultant, strategizing with influential leaders and cohorts in other countries about ways to further silence and remove LGBT people from basic protections of the law, in particular by criminalizing their advocacy. Persecution, defined as the "severe deprivation of fundamental rights" on the basis of identity, is a crime under international law; to be exact, it's a "crime against humanity." This deprivation of fundamental rights of LGBT communities is exactly what Lively aims to bring about. Under U.S. law, foreign citizens who are the victims of crimes against humanity can sue American perpetrators of such crimes. And so Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG) is suing Scott Lively for persecuting them. Staff from SMUG and other LGBT advocates who have suffered persecution --arrests, raids, and other severe deprivations of basic rights --will be there on Monday, when the Center for Constitutional Rights will have the honor of representing them in court.
If you happen to be in the Springfield area on Monday, join us in court that day and at a press conference outside afterwards. Wherever you are, though, you can follow the day's events on Twitter - @theCCR will be live tweeting the event using the hashtag #StoptheHate. Every queer person in America can help expose what Scott Lively is doing by retweeting the news from court and by letting their friends know about this case.