It has taken years of court hearings, tens of thousands of miles of air travel, tens of thousands of pages of court documents, but it’s finally been revealed what the Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) group wants a federal court to tell a Christian pastor, author and speaker.
“Actually, and incredibly, yes,” concludes the newest filing in the case SMUG brought against pastor Scott Lively years ago.
“SMUG unequivocally seeks a speech-chilling injunction against anything Lively might say which SMUG finds offensive, to hold over Lively like a club.”
SMUG filed a case under the U.S. Alien Torts Act alleging it has a right to use American courts to seek to stifle the traditional family and Christian messages of Lively.
He’s being defended by Liberty Counsel, which, by the sound of its latest filing, is getting tired of the arguments.
Its response to the plaintiff’s post-hearing memorandum on summary judgment contends there’s nothing to the dispute.
“In its post-hearing memorandum (dkt. 324-1) (‘SMUG Memo’), plaintiff Sexual Minorities Uganda (‘SMUG’) attempts yet again to do that which it plainly could not do at the summary judgment hearing, nor in its summary judgment opposition, nor in its ‘sur-reply’: (A) identify any specific actions of Defendant Scott Lively (‘Lively’) in the U.S. that had a direct causal link to any alleged injury suffered by SMUG in Uganda; and (B) identify any specific injunctive relief that this court could even consider that would not violate the First Amendment.
“Although it is seemingly grasping at straws, SMUG still offers nothing.”
SMUG brought the case four years ago and since then has attempted to “produce a shred of evidence to fit its sensational claim that Lively committed ‘crimes against humanity’ – akin to genocide and war crimes – by ‘conspiring’ to ‘persecute’ the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex) population in Uganda,” Liberty Counsel said.
But SMUG did reveal its “secret and corrupt goal to intimidate Lively into silence, along with any American pastor with a heart for African families,” Liberty Counsel said.
The legal group points to SMUG’s request that the court enjoin, or prohibit, Lively “from selling or giving away his books in Uganda.”
And “to enjoin Lively from going to Uganda and preaching at Martin Ssempa’s church.”
And “to enjoin Lively from going to Uganda to speak to a group of high school students about what Lively perceives to be the many and serious health hazards of homosexual conduct.”
And “to enjoin Lively from going to Uganda to train lawyers on how to use the law to oppose the legalization of same-sex marriage.”
And ‘to enjoin Lively from going to Uganda to lobby the Ugandan Parliament not to legalize same-sex marriage.”
In other words: shut him up.
“SMUG deems every pro-family advocate in Uganda to be a ‘co-conspirator’ in a ‘criminal enterprise’ to ‘persecute’ the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex) population of Uganda,” Liberty Counsel reported.
“Even after 100 hours of depositions and 40,000 pages of documents, SMUG has no evidence whatsoever connecting Lively to any act of so-called ‘persecution,'” said Mat Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel. “SMUG has always claimed it was not trying to hold Lively liable for his speaking and writing. Yet the more SMUG writes, the more obvious it becomes that SMUG wants to punish Lively for his beliefs.
“This is clearly a vendetta against Lively for speaking about homosexuality and God’s design for the family in Uganda,” said Staver.
In calling for a summary judgment on behalf of Lively, Liberty Counsel said one of the offenses cited by SMUG was that Lively emailed to friends a link to an article.
“If sending Internet links to others lends ‘practical assistance’ to ‘crimes against humanity,’ those words mean nothing,” the filing said.
SMUG also cited Lively’s comments “that the dean of a Ugandan law school, Sylvia Tamale, should be fired or demoted because she ‘teaches a course on gender in the law school in which she reportedly expects students to adopt her pan-sexual ideologies.'”
But, Liberty Counsel noted, “Tamale herself has submitted a declaration to this court in which she describes her free and unrestricted advocacy on homosexual causes in Uganda, without any mention of any attempts to fire or demote her from her job.”
“Calling for the resignation or firing of public figures with whom one disagrees is protected First Amendment expression, part and parcel of public debate, and an advocacy tool frequently … employed by LGBT advocates,” it said.
“SMUG has been vague about the injunction it wants because SMUG knows it has no legal basis for it. No matter how offensive SMUG finds Lively, SMUG knows it cannot enjoin what it really wants to enjoin – Lively’s ideas,” LC wrote.
Just weeks ago, Lively was bludgeoned with some 1,000 pages of claims from SMUG, which is trying to find basis for its charge that Lively’s actions are “crimes against humanity.”
“The evidence shows that Lively, in a country where homosexuality has been illegal for decades, urged treatment of LGBTI people with respect and dignity, and the liberalization of Uganda’s laws against homosexuality, even as he spoke in favor of biblical sexual morality and against the LGBTI political agenda,” his lawyers argued at the time.
“SMUG has now made it clear that it wants to put Pastor Scott Lively’s Christian faith on trial,” said Liberty Counsel’s Harry Mihet, chief litigation counsel and vice president of legal affairs, at that time. “Every American should be concerned about this unprecedented attempt to subjugate U.S. citizens and our Constitution to the new ‘morality’ of the international left, and we should pray for a just and decisive ruling from the court preserving our most cherished constitutional freedoms of thought and expression.”
SMUG’s claims of “crimes against humanity” stem from Lively’s visits to Uganda in 2002 and 2009, when he declared his biblical views.
SMUG’s “gay” claims are based on the Alien Tort Statute, but the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled the provision “cannot be used to sue U.S. citizens alleging violation of international or foreign law,” Liberty Counsel argued.
“Neither Ugandan nor U.S. law provide a cause of action for SMUG, so SMUG is trying to create new precedent to punish speech,” by Americans in America, the legal team explained then.
Said Staver at the time: “The implications of this suit are frightening because SMUG is trying to punish a U.S. citizen for constitutionally protected speech under some vague and undefined international law. From the beginning this case had no merit, but we have had to spend four years and countless hours defending an innocent pastor against a lawsuit designed only to intimidate. This case is a direct assault on the supremacy of the United States Constitution.”
U.S. District Judge Michael Ponsor had rejected an earlier move to dismiss the allegations, made by the George Soros-funded Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, which the New York Times described as left-leaning.