An LGBT rights group in Uganda on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against an American Christian evangelical leader alleging that he conspired to persecute people on the basis of their sexual identity.
Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Pamela Spees, who is representing Sexual Minorities Uganda, told Raw Story that group is asking a federal court for punitive damages from Scott Lively, but more importantly they would like to see his actions legally classified as persecution.
“Best case scenario, the client, Sexual Minorities Uganda, gets a judgement that what this man has done is in violation of international law,” she explained. “That it recognizes that [LGBT Ugandans] are subject to the same rights as anybody else, and when somebody tries to systematically deprive you of those, they are committing persecution.”
One of Lively’s alleged contacts in Uganda, Parliamentarian David Bahati, in February reintroduced the so-called “kill the gays” bill that he had first introduced in 2009.
Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda, but under the original bill, some homosexual acts would have been punishable by death. The latest iteration of the bill increases current punishments for certain acts to life in prison, but drops the death penalty.
“The anti-homosexuality bill is the latest example,” Spees remarked. “There’s been other incursions and restrictions. If you substituted ‘LGBT’ for race or religion or ethnicity, there would be no question that this is so beyond what’s acceptable in terms of international law.”
In the complaint (PDF) filed in federal court in Massachusetts on Wednesday, Sexual Minorities Uganda alleges that Lively engaged in a conspiracy to deprive them of their rights.
“Think about any other type of conspiracy in the way that people are involved in it,” Spees said. “He is not just involved in it as somebody who comes in and talks. He’s somebody who has the plan for how to do this and assist people with implementing it.”
“He did assist in drafting that legislation which is aimed at silencing people and basically erasing people from the society in terms of the way that they can participate, but it is also bigger than that. He’s shared the tools. … He actually instructs [in his book] advocates to focus on the dangers to children as the way of getting sympathy away from gays.”
“I’ve never done anything in Uganda except preach the Gospel and speak my opinion about the homosexual issue,” he insisted. “There’s actually no grounds for litigation on this.”
The group Arise for Social Justice held a rally outside of Lively’s Abiding Truth Ministries at the Holy Grounds Coffee Shop in Springfield, Illinois on Wednesday to coincide with the lawsuit being filed.
“It was a silent march, it was very powerful and, I think, really healing for those of us that participated, most of us who are black,” activist Michaelann Bewsee told Raw Story. “And we carried signs with the names of people who have been persecuted, jailed, beaten and killed in Uganda because of the homophobia there that Scott Lively has helped to create.”
“Mr. Lively did not put in an appearance although I do believe he was there,” she added. “Some of his other folks came out and said unless we found Christ, we’d be in trouble. But I think a lot of our folks would say they already found Christ. And our Christ is a loving Christ and not one who perpetrates hate.”
Watch this interview with Scott Lively from Current TV, broadcast May 26, 2011.
David Edwards has served as an editor at Raw Story since 2006. His work can also be found at Crooks & Liars, and he's also been published at The BRAD BLOG. He came to Raw Story after working as a network manager for the state of North Carolina and as as engineer developing enterprise resource planning software. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidEdwards.
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