What could be more boring to Americans than the latest news about a lawsuit brought by a group of political activists in Uganda? Especially since the case is currently in the mind-numbingly boring stage of endless interrogatories and depositions? But this is no ordinary case. The defendant, Pastor Scott Lively of Abiding Truth Ministries, says Americans need to be paying very close attention, because the outcome could well set a new precedent – that an international agenda based on anti-biblical standards could trump the U.S. Constitution’s freedom of speech and religion. While the case’s current back-and-forth questions and answers will last another year, during which time an appellate court could intervene, Lively told WND the dispute is over whether a pastor can publicly criticize behavior that the Bible also criticizes. U.S. District Judge Michael Posner has allowed to proceed a case brought against Lively by an African group called Sexual Minorities Uganda, or SMUG. SMUG demands Lively be punished for criticizing homosexuality, calling his speech a “crime against humanity” in violation of “international law.” The plaintiffs allege the Alien Tort Statute in the United States allows them to make the charge in a U.S. court. But Lively’s attorney, Horatio Mihet of Liberty Counsel, says his client’s preaching is protected by the Constitution. “We believe SMUG’s claims are firmly foreclosed, not only by the First Amendment right to free speech, but also by the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Kiobel, which eliminated Alien Tort Statute claims for events that allegedly occurred in foreign nations,” he said. Yet, Posner took nearly 80 pages to say that he thought SMUG’s allegations were substantive and needed to be adjudicated.
Appearing to side with the gay-rights plaintiffs, the judge writes that while SMUG is made up of groups “that advocate for the fair and equal treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people,” Lively is an “American citizen residing in Springfield, Mass., who, according to the complaint, holds himself out to be an expert on what he terms the ‘gay movement.’” Posner goes on to cite “many authorities” who “implicitly support the principle that widespread, systematic persecution of individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity constitutes a crime against humanity.” Arguing that concluding Lively’s statements are protected under the First Amendment was “premature,” the judge further wrote: “Indeed, defendant, according to the amended complaint, is alleged to have maintained what amounts to a kind of ‘Homophobia Central” in Springfield. He has allegedly supported and actively participated in worldwide initiatives, with a substantial focus on Uganda, aimed at repressing free expression by LGBTI groups, destroying the organizations that support them, intimidating LGBTI individuals, and even criminalizing the very status of being lesbian or gay.” Lively sought to have the complaint dismissed when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, that the Alien Tort Statute doesn’t apply to foreign territory and that the law cannot be used to challenge foreign conduct in courts in the United States. Mihet sums up the heart of the case against Lively as being the belief that First Amendment free speech protections should play second fiddle to an international consensus that criticism of homosexuality is criminal. More