American Evangelist Who Sparked Anti-Gay Panic Sued By Ugandan Gay Rights Group

Via the New York Times:

A Ugandan gay rights group filed suit against an American evangelist, Scott Lively, in federal court in Massachusetts on Wednesday, accusing him of violating international law by inciting the persecution of gay men and lesbians in Uganda.

The lawsuit maintains that beginning in 2002, Mr. Lively conspired with religious and political leaders in Uganda to whip up anti-gay hysteria with warnings that gay people would sodomize African children and corrupt their culture.

The Ugandan legislature considered a bill in 2009, proposed by one of Mr. Lively’s Ugandan contacts, that would have imposed the death sentence for the “offense of homosexuality.” That bill languished after an outcry from the United States and European nations that are among major aid donors to Uganda, but was reintroduced last month.

Mr. Lively is being sued by the organization Sexual Minorities Uganda under the alien tort statute, which allows foreigners to sue in American courts in situations asserting the violation of international law. The suit says that Mr. Lively’s actions resulted in the persecution, arrest, torture and murder of gay men and lesbians in Uganda.

Advocates for the rights of sexual minorities in Uganda have long pointed the finger at Lively for inciting the anti-gay panic there. Julius Kaggwa, and activist with the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law and the executive director of the Support Initiative For People With Atypical Sex Development, described Lively’s role:

That environment in Uganda has been intensified over the last year and a half, says Kaggwa, since American religious right activist Scott Lively dropped, in his words, a “nuclear bomb against the gay agenda in Uganda.” Lively, the former head of the California affiliate of the American Family Association, and an ally of the AFA’s virulently anti-gay policy director Bryan Fischer, led a three-day conference that Kaggwa says sparked a “panic” in evangelical and Pentecostal churches that the “gay agenda” was poised to cause the downfall of Ugandan families and culture. During the conference, Lively blamed gay people for the 1994 Rwandan genocide, equated homosexuality with Nazism, and more generally asserted that gay people are both predators and a foreign infiltration that undermines local values.

As the Rev. Kapya Kaoma, author of a report on anti-LGBT evangelism in Africa, told RD’s Kathryn Joyce last year:

When he goes to Uganda, he’s not known as Scott Lively, but as an American evangelical… The Africans don’t always have the resources to follow their statements so they say: this man of God says this is going on in the world. Or Scott Lively goes to the Uganda Anti-gay Conference, and the media says that an American evangelical says there’s a gay agenda… In four hours, he teaches them about the gay agenda [that’s seeking] to take over the world. When he leaves, at the follow-up meeting, parliament makes a statement saying thank you for this information, and now we know that there is a group of gays trying to take over the world, and it’s up to Uganda to fight.

Lively also has a long history, in the United States, of comparing gay people to Nazis, peddling in other conspiracy theories about the “homosexual agenda,” and other anti-gay activities. He has worked with, and has been defended by the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer:

According to Jody May-Chang, an independent journalist and LGBT rights advocate in Boise, while executive director of the Idaho Values Alliance, Fischer hosted anti-gay activist Scott Lively, former head of AFA’s California affiliate, as part of a “Shake the Nation” conference, in 2008. In his new book, C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy, Jeff Sharlet describes Lively as a “catalyst” for the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda, which calls for the death penalty for homosexuals. During a 2009 visit to Uganda, Lively likened gay people to Nazis and suggested they had instigated the Rwandan genocide. In early 2009, One News Now promoted Lively’s book, Redeeming the Rainbow: A Christian Response to the Gay Agenda, as a “textbook on family values.” On his radio show this year, Fischer claimed that criminalization of homosexuality was mandated by biblical law.

The Lively visit to Boise sparked a “visceral response” from the community, said May-Chang, including a letter from the Interfaith Alliance of Idaho, calling on a local church hosting the conference speakers to reconsider. Rusty Thomas, also a Shake the Nation conference speaker who works with the radical anti-choice group Operation Save America, referred to the Interfaith Alliance in an online report as “the synagogue of Satan and heresy.” In the report, Thomas claimed his group was “storming the gates of hell in Idaho,” where they “went to the local death camp” (Planned Parenthood), and described the “sodomites” who protested outside the church where the conference was held. Thomas added that they “challenged the Church, and particularly men, to connect their testosterone with Biblical Christianity.”

In an online column, Fischer defended Lively’s preposterous and debunked “history” of a Nazi-gay link, claiming “the masculine homosexual movement in Germany created the Brown Shirts, and the Brown Shirts in turn created the Nazi Party.” In a column earlier this year opposing the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Fischer recycled that 2008 column, adding, “Even today in America, it is chic in some homosexual circles for individuals to wear replicas of Nazi Germany uniforms, complete with iron crosses, storm trooper outfits, military boots, and even swastikas.”

SMUG, the Ugandan group, is represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights. The complaint, which also names Ugandan evangelists Stephen Langa and Martin Ssempa and politicians James Buturo and David Bahati as defendants, charges that Lively and the others committed crimes against humanity of persecution, and engaged in a conspiracy to do so. The Times reports Lively was unaware of the lawsuit but said, “That’s about as ridiculous as it gets. I’ve never done anything in Uganda except preach the Gospel and speak my opinion about the homosexual issue.” 

While it’s not clear what the legal prospects for the suit are, the complaint lays out a chilling sequence of incitements, repression, persecution, torture and violence, including rape and murder, inflicted on sexual minorities in Uganda. Even if you were aware of some of the history, the complaint contains a stunning account of a genocidal campaign, summarized by a member of Uganda’s Parliament after Lively’s “pivotal” 2009 work there: “We must terminate homosexuals before they exterminate society.”