Although American pastor Scott Lively defeated, in a U.S. court, a bizarre lawsuit brought against him for speeches he gave in Uganda about homosexuality, he nevertheless appealed the matter to a higher court. Why?
The presiding judge Michael A. Ponsor, while dismissing the case against Lively, who is currently running for governor of Massachusetts, littered his dismissal with a large dose of “gratuitous” insults about Lively’s Christian beliefs.
But the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal has declined to take formal action to remove the judge’s comments from his opinion in Lively’s case, arguing they were not relevant to the order.
“Lively chiefly faults the district court for including a series of unflattering statements in its dispositive opinion,” the appeals court said. “None of these statements, though, have any bearing on the analytical foundations of the dispositive order or impact the result. The statements are, therefore, dicta and, as such, they lack any binding or preclusive effect.”
Lively was represented by Liberty Counsel, which noted that the ruling “vindicated” the pastor’s name.
Lively won a summary judgment against Sexual Minorities of Uganda, or SMUG, which sued him in 2012 for preaching biblical views on homosexuality.
“Although Lively’s summary judgment win put an end to SMUG’s attempt to silence him, he filed the appeal to strike the outrageous statements and unnecessary, unsupportable findings made against Lively by U.S. District Judge Michael A. Ponsor in the order delivering the win. The court of appeals’ opinion neutralizes the gratuitous language, making it clear that Judge Ponsor’s statements have no legal effect,” Liberty Counsel said.
“When confronted with SMUG’s complete failure of evidence in 2017, Judge Ponsor finally dismissed SMUG’s claims as he should have done in 2013, giving Lively a complete, albeit delayed, victory,” said the legal group.
“But Judge Ponsor let his personal bias against pro-family values and support for the LGBT agenda infect what should have been a short and straightforward legal opinion, polluting his order with a prolonged tirade against Lively, badly distorting Lively’s Christian views and activism, and insulting him with such unbecoming epithets as ‘crackpot bigot,’ ‘pathetic,’ ‘ludicrous,’ ‘abhorrent’ and numerous others. Even more egregiously, and even though he admittedly lacked jurisdiction to rule on SMUG’s claims, Judge Ponsor purported to conclude, without even a pretense of legal or factual analysis, that Lively’s Christian beliefs and pro-family activism violated ‘international law’ and that Lively’s peaceful speaking on homosexuality in Uganda somehow ‘aided and abetted’ international crimes supposedly committed by people Lively has never even spoken to or met.”
Horatio Mihet, Liberty Counsel’s vice president of legal affairs and chief litigation counsel, said the court of appeals “has legally cleared Lively’s name, stating unequivocally that Judge Ponsor’s baseless findings and insults have no legal effect whatsoever.”
“The decision also thwarts SMUG’s promise to weaponize Judge Ponsor’s attack against Lively, leaving SMUG with what it always deserved from this case, which is nothing,” he said.
Liveley, a columnist for WND, was sued for his talks on homosexuality during three visits to Uganda in 2002 and 2009.
Ponsor composed some 20 pages of diatribe against Lively’s Christian beliefs.
The judge described Lively’s statements and opinions regarding homosexuality as “vicious and frightening,” and he said the pastor’s views ranged from “the ludicrous to the abhorrent.”
In his blast at Christian beliefs, Ponsor accused the minister of “virulently hateful rhetoric.”
The homosexual activists had filed their lawsuit under the Alien Tort Statute. But Ponsor found that while Lively exchanged emails and other information about conferences at which he would speak in Uganda, his actions did not rise to the level of giving courts jurisdiction.
Ponsor simply inserted his own bias into Lively’s arguments, stating, “Defendant argued that aiding and abetting persecution of LGBTI people, no matter how unhinged and malignant, simply did not violate international norms with sufficient clarity to place it within the narrow class of claims subject to ATS jurisdiction.”
The law, the judge wrote, apparently with reluctance, states U.S. courts cannot exercise jurisdiction over claims of injuries in another country.