Sharing Christian beliefs does not constitute “crimes against humanity,” contends a legal team seeking dismissal of a claim filed against a U.S. pastor by homosexual activists in Uganda over acts of alleged “persecution.”
The lawsuit by Sexual Minorities Uganda targets Rev. Scott Lively of Abiding Truth Ministries, even though the lawsuit does not allege he participated in the alleged acts of “persecution.”
“In this action brought under the Alien Tort Statute, Sexual Minorities Uganda (‘SMUG’), an alien organization, launches a direct assault on the supremacy and portability of the United States Constitution, seeking to render the bedrock protections of the First Amendment subservient to the inchoate and amorphous dictates of ‘international law,’” says a brief filed in support of the motion to dismiss.
The motion and brief were filed by Liberty Counsel, which is representing Lively against the challenge to his free speech in U.S. District Court in Springfield, Mass.
The organization filed a 109-page motion arguing that the case should be dismissed immediately.
“SMUG asks this United States court to punish one of its citizens, Mr. Lively, for ‘crimes against humanity’ under an international treaty that The United States has expressly rejected,” the motion states.
“Moreover, what SMUG cavalierly and conclusorily labels as ‘crimes against humanity’ – the most heinous of crimes – is actually nothing more than civil, non-violent political discourse in the public square on a subject of great public concern, which occupies the highest run of First Amendment protection,” the brief opens.
The action was prompted by Lively’s “sharing his biblical views on homosexuality during a 2009 visit to Uganda.”
But there are many grounds on which to call for dismissal, Liberty Counsel said.
“When SMUG sued Rev. Lively in a Massachusetts federal court, it launched a direct assault on the supremacy of the United States Constitution,” said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel. “SMUG is seeking to render the bedrock protections of the First Amendment subservient to the vague and fluid dictates of international law.”
SMUG, represented by a George Soros-funded, radical “civil rights” group, is trying to sue Lively in the United States under a law that allows certain aliens to sue for torts committed against them in the U.S.
But Liberty Counsel told the court that like all American citizens, Lively enjoys a fundamental First Amendment right to engage in nonviolent political discourse anywhere in the world.
“Rev. Lively did not check his First Amendment rights at the airport before departing for Uganda,” Staver said.
Liberty Counsel notes for the judge that in the 47 pages of claims collated into six specific acts of “persecution” that the Ugandans are alleging against Lively, all were “committed by other individuals not before this court.”
“SMUG alleges no plausible connection between Mr. Lively and the actual perpetrators of those alleged violent acts, and, indeed, Mr. Lively’s name is not mentioned in single time within the many pages of the complaint that describe those six events,” the Liberty Counsel brief argues.
“While SMUG tries to turn those six events allegedly perpetrated by other people into a ‘widespread and systematic attack against a civilian population,’ SMUG does not tell this court that, according to its own chairman, it has ready ‘received justice’ in Ugandan courts, where SMUG and its constituents have been awarded damages against police, damages against tabloid publications, and permanent injunctions against incitements to violence,” the brief states
But that’s not all.
“SMUG also does not tell the court that David Kato – the murdered Ugandan activist whom SMUG makes the centerpiece of this lawsuit – was killed not by an enraged homophobe incited by Mr. Lively’s protected speech, but by a homosexual prostitute upset over a failed business transaction.
“Neither does SMUG tell the court that the confessed perpetrator of this horrible crime was tried and convicted in Ugandan courts, and is now serving a 30-year prison sentence.
“And, finally, SMUG does not tell the court that, far from inciting violence, Mr. Lively has consistently condemned acts of violence and calls to violence in the strongest possible terms, and has praised the Ugandan courts for imparting justice.”
The brief argues: “SMUG has no cause of action against Mr. Lively. This lawsuit should be dismissed.”
Among the incidents of alleged persecuted cited by SMUG include a February 2012 “raid” of a sex conference in which materials were seized, allegedly conducted by the Ugandan “Minister of Ethics.” Another incident was the “arrest” of three homosexual activists by Ugandan police. Several others also were cited.
LC said that SMUG does not claim Lively was involved in any of the alleged incidents of persecution, or that “he was even in Uganda at the time they occurred.”
“Nevertheless, SMUG seeks to hold Mr. Lively, and Mr. Lively alone, liable for these six alleged ‘crimes against humanity,’ not because of anything Mr. Lively has done, but because of what Mr. Lively has said about homosexuality and the homosexual rights movement, either in various books and writings, or during visits to Uganda in 2002 and 2009.”
The crux of the claims is that Lively expressed his biblically based beliefs that homosexual behavior is wrong.
Among the reasons that the case should be dismissed, Liberty Counsel said, are that Lively’s comments were covered by the First Amendment, the court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction and there is no cause of action against Lively.
Also, it would be good for SMUG to “reread its own complaint,” Liberty Counsel states.
“Nowhere does it allege any actionable conduct by Mr. Lively ‘in Springfield, Mass.,’ or anywhere else outside Uganda, for that matter,” Liberty Counsel tells the Springfield court.
The allegations reached so far as to blame Lively for Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The legislation was introduced three years ago,and if it passes Parliament, SMUG claims its “work and mere existence” would be illegal.
“The bill, however, has languished in the Ugandan Parliament for three years. Even if such generalized worry could be construed as an injury, and it cannot, SMUG cannot possibly show that its supposed injuries from a bill that was never passed were caused by Mr. Lively and not be the independent actions of 435 voting members of the Ugandan Parliament,” the motion says.
Earlier, Staver said there should be concern over the lawsuit, as it is a “direct threat” to speech.
“I am an American citizen [being targeted] over the persecution of homosexuals as they define it as a crime against humanity – for speaking the truth of the Bible in a foreign country,” Lively told WND shortly after the action was filed.
The case was brought by lawyers with the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, which the New York Times described as left-leaning.