June 8, 2017 - On Monday, Judge Michael Ponsor of the U.S. District Court in Springfield, Massachusetts affirmed that Scott Lively, a Springfield resident, "aided and abetted a vicious and frightening campaign of repression against LGBTI persons in Uganda," but dismissed the lawsuit brought in 2012 by Sexual Minorities Uganda ( SMUG ), saying a 2013 Supreme Court decision limited the extraterritorial reach of the Alien Tort Statute. Lively is president of the Abiding Truth Ministries and a one-time candidate for Massachusetts governor.
The court emphasized throughout its decision the harm of Lively's campaign of persecution, finding he "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." In a statement on Tuesday, SMUG's Executive Director Frank Mugisha underscored this point: "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." SMUG has not said whether it will appeal the case, which has thrown a spotlight on Americans' overseas campaigns to criminalize sexual minorities, and has set new precedent in recognizing persecution of LGBTI people as a crime against humanity.
SMUG's case drew from documentation of Lively's Uganda activities by Political Research Associates, a Boston-area think tank that monitors U.S. groups that threaten human rights. In 2009, PRA Research Analyst Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma documented Scott Lively's role as a key instigator of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda ( commonly referred to as the "Kill the Gays" Bill ), producing exclusive videoof Lively's presentation at a Kampala, Uganda anti-gay conference. Kaoma's ground breaking report for PRA, "Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches, and Homophobia," revealed the role of the U.S. Christian Right in escalating attacks on LGBTI people and women's reproductive freedoms in Africa. Kaoma has since authored numerous reports and academic articles on this topic, including "Colonizing African Values," and American Culture Warriors in Africa: A Guide to the Exporters of Homophobia and Sexism, published by PRA in 2014. Rev. Dr. Kaoma also appears as an expert voice in the award-winning 2013 documentary film, "God Loves Uganda." In 2016 he was deposed by Mr. Lively's defense team as part of the SMUG lawsuit.
Commenting on the ruling, Kaoma said, "I am proud to be part this historic case. The court acknowledges Scott Lively's central role in the persecution of LGBTI persons in Uganda." He added, "Unfortunately Mr. Lively is but one of many U.S. campaigners attacking human rights at home and abroad under cover of their unfaithful version of Christianity. People of good conscience should view this ruling as an invitation to hold these Americans accountable for their life-threatening activities in Africa and beyond." Kaoma, an Anglican priest, is from Zambia.
"The ruling clearly vindicates what SMUG and the LGBTI community in Uganda have known and said all along about Lively and his role in Uganda," said CCR Senior Staff Attorney Pamela Spees in a press release. "They have shown incredible courage, dignity, and determination in the face of rising repression and persecution. No matter what happens next in this case, they have made an important difference in demanding their day in court, achieving the recognition that persecution of LGBTI people is a crime against humanity, and facing down one of their key persecutors armed only with the truth of their experience and moral courage."
Scott Lively began his career as a campaigner against reproductive rights and the civil rights of LGBTI people in the United States in the 1980s as assistant director of the Oregon Citizens Alliance. The OCA sought to ban abortion and ran a succession of ballot initiative campaigns targeting LGBTI people. One such measure would have changed the Oregon state constitution to label homosexuality "abnormal, wrong, unnatural and perverse." In 1995 Lively coauthored a book, The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party, that blames the Holocaust on gay people acting under Satan's influence - assertions Lively repeated during his Uganda campaign. The book established Lively as a Holocaust revisionist. In addition to Uganda, Lively has campaigned in Russia, Estonia, Latvia, and Moldavia. He has collaborated with Religious Right leaders from around the world, including the World Congress of Families, a right-wing organization based in Illinois that PRA has also reported on extensively.