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A federal judge has backed a homosexual-rights group in its claim that members were injured by an American pastor’s biblical preaching in Uganda against homosexual behavior.
But the ruling from Judge Michael Ponser in a case brought by Sexual Minorities Uganda against Pastor Scott Lively of Abiding Truth Ministries could mean much more. It could establish that an international consensus disavowing long-held biblical standards could trump the U.S. Constitution.
SMUG alleges Lively must be punished for criticizing homosexuality, calling his speech a “crime against humanity” in violation of “international law.”
The plaintiffs allege that the Alien Tort Statute in the United States allows them to make the charge in the U.S.
Lively’s attorney, Horatio Mihet of Liberty Counsel, said his client’s preaching is protected by the Constitution.
“We are disappointed with the decision because 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.”
Mihet said his team is still reviewing the court’s ruling “and will continue to vigorously defend Mr. Lively’s constitutional rights, with confidence that he will ultimately be vindicated.”
The judge took nearly 80 pages to say that he thought the allegations by SMUG were substantive and needed to be adjudicated.
He sided with the “gays” in his first paragraph, explaining 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.'”
The judge cited “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.”
The judge argued that the idea that Lively’s statements are protected under the First Amendment was “premature.”
“Indeed, defendant, according to the amended complaint, is alleged to have maintained what amounts to a kind of ‘Homophobia Central” in Springfield,” the judge wrote.
“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 recently when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Alien Tort Statute doesn’t apply to foreign territory. The court said the law cannot be used to challenge foreign conduct in courts in the United States.
The ruling came down in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum.
Mihet had explained the heart of the case against Lively is the belief that First Amendment free speech protections should play second fiddle to an international consensus that criticism of homosexuality is criminal.
Mihet told WND earlier that he has argued all along the lawsuit was prevented by the First Amendment, which puts the U.S. Constitution higher than international law.
The case against Lively claims that by speaking in opposition to homosexuality, he was conspiring to deprive the plaintiffs of their fundamental rights.
Mihet explained that SMUG would allow people to express an opinion against homosexuality, but they would not be allowed to take any action.
Under that precedent, he said, someone petitioning in opposition to special designations for homosexuals would become an international human rights criminal. Likewise, those who worked to support Proposition 8 in California, the state’s constitutional definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman, would be subject to conviction, he said.
It also would target those who are working to defeat the ENDA plan in Congress, which imposes certain special protections for homosexuals in the workplace.
“All of those become criminals overnight under this theory of liability,” Mihat said.
Lively’s attorneys have explained that SMUG’s attack goes directly to the supremacy and portability of the U.S. Constitution.
“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,” a court filing opposing SMUG’s case explained.
“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 said.
The action was prompted by Lively “sharing his biblical views on homosexuality during a 2009 visit to Uganda.”
While there may have been some actions in Uganda against homosexuals, Liberty Counsel said, “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.”
SMUG is represented by the George Soros-funded Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, which even the New York Times described as left-leaning.
“[The Alien Tort Statute] is not a blanket delegation of lawmaking to the democratically unaccountable international community,” said Mathew Staver, Liberty Counsel founder. “Like all American citizens, Rev. Lively enjoys a fundamental First Amendment right to engage in nonviolent political discourses anywhere in the world.”
The case has some significant holes, Liberty Counsel contends.
“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.”
WND also recently reported Ugandan newssite New Vision said President Yoweri Museveni celebrated Uganda’s 50th anniversary of independence from Britain at the National Jubilee Prayers event by publicly repenting of his personal sin and the sins of the nation.
“I stand here today to close the evil past, and especially in the last 50 years of our national leadership history and at the threshold of a new dispensation in the life of this nation. I stand here on my own behalf and on behalf of my predecessors to repent. We ask for your forgiveness,” Museveni prayed.
“We confess these sins, which have greatly hampered our national cohesion and delayed our political, social and economic transformation. We confess sins of idolatry and witchcraft which are rampant in our land. We confess sins of shedding innocent blood, sins of political hypocrisy, dishonesty, intrigue and betrayal,” Museveni said.
“Forgive us of sins of pride, tribalism and sectarianism; sins of laziness, indifference and irresponsibility; sins of corruption and bribery that have eroded our national resources; sins of sexual immorality, drunkenness and debauchery; sins of unforgiveness, bitterness, hatred and revenge; sins of injustice, oppression and exploitation; sins of rebellion, insubordination, strife and conflict,” Museveni prayed.
The president also dedicated Uganda to God.
“We want to dedicate this nation to you so that you will be our God and guide. We want Uganda to be known as a nation that fears God and as a nation whose foundations are firmly rooted in righteousness and justice to fulfill what the Bible says in Psalm 33:12: Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord. A people you have chosen as your own,” Museveni prayed.