A pastor from Springfield, Mass., who was accused by an LGBT activist group of committing "crimes against humanity" when he discussed what the Bible says about homosexuality during his visits to Uganda, scored a victory in court last week after winning summary judgment against his accusers.
Pastor Scott Lively, known for pro-family stance, traveled to Uganda in 2002 and 2009 and shared about biblical views on homosexuality. An LGBT activist group named Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) filed a lawsuit claiming his actions were a form of persecution against Uganda's gay community, according to the Liberty Counsel, which represented the pastor.
Lawsuit filed under Alien Tort Statute
SMUG, represented by the George Soros-funded Center for Constitutional Rights, filed the lawsuit under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), a provision in the United States Code that grants jurisdiction to federal state courts "of all causes where an alien sues for a tort only in violation of the law of nation or of a treaty of the United States."
In a broader sense, ATS can be used to have universal jurisdiction for cases that violate international law, particularly "specific, universal, and obligatory" ones, such as those involving genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Company that the ATS "does not allow a foreign citizen to sue a U.S. citizen in America alleging violation of some international law." This ruling led to the dismissal of many pending cases under the ATS.
However, U.S. District Judge Michael A. Ponsor did not dismiss Lively's case even though the Supreme Court ruling no longer gave him jurisdiction over it.
Ponsor, who is known to support the LGBT agenda, allowed "his personal bias against pro-family values and support of the LGBT agenda slip into what should otherwise have been a straight legal opinion," the Liberty Counsel said.
Lawsuit dismissed for lack of jurisdictional ground
The case needlessly dragged on for years, but in the end, SMUG was not able to produce a single evidence of conspiracy or persecution of Uganda's homosexual community allegedly committed by Lively.
On the contary, the evidence presented in court only proved to show that while Lively did present the biblical stand on sexual morality, he urged that LGBT persons be treated with respect and dignity. He also spoke against Uganda's laws on homosexuality, which is considered illegal in the country.
On June 5, Ponsor finally dismissed the case, a decision that he should have done in 2013.
"The summary judgment order, entered by U.S. District Judge Michael A. Ponsor, puts an end to SMUG's attempt to silence Lively and others who speak internationally about the LGBT agenda," the Liberty Counsel said.
Mat Staver, founder and chairman of the Liberty Counsel, said the dismissal is a victory "for the Constitution and the rule of law."
"All Christians should celebrate the end of a lawsuit intended only to intimidate an innocent pastor into silence," Staver said.
However, "the court's open display of activism in deriding Lively's beliefs reminds us of the threats American Christians continue to face from a judiciary that is increasingly hostile to any expression of biblical truth to a decaying culture," he said.
Appeal filed to strike Ponsor's "defamatory" statements
A few days after Lively's victory in court, Lively and his attorneys filed an appeal at the First Circuit Court of Appeals to strike Ponsor's statements, which accused Lively of "actions in aiding and abetting efforts to demonize, intimidate, and injure LGBTI people in Uganda."
Ponsor ruled that while he dismissed the case based on the 2013 Supreme Court ruling, he affirmed SMUG's charges against Lively, and emphasized that he was dismissing the case solely for reasons of jurisdictional ground.
"The question before the court is not whether Defendant's actions in aiding and abetting efforts to demonize, intimidate, and injure LGBTI people in Uganda constitute violations of international law. They do," Ponsor wrote.
He ruled that Lively "aided and abetted a vicious and frightening campaign of repression against LGBTQI persons in Uganda" and that he "worked with elements in Uganda who share some of his views to try to repress freedom of expression by LGBTI people in Uganda, deprive them of the protection of the law, and render their very existence illegal."
The judge went on to say that "the evidence of record demonstrates that Defendant aided and abetted efforts (1) to restrict freedom of expression by members of the LBGTI community in Uganda, (2) to suppress their civil rights, and (3) to make the very existence of LGBTI people in Uganda a crime"-even though no such evidence exists.
The judge also insulted Lively's Christian worldview by calling it "crackpot bigotry," "abhorrent," "ludicrous" and "pathetic."
Because of his "false narratives," Lively and his attorneys filed an appeal to dismiss the SMUG v Lively lawsuit completely, in effect striking Ponsor's language.
Lively said Ponsor clearly considered him "guilty of the worst category of international crime" simply because he preached about the biblical view of homosexuality.
"To be sure, Judge Ponsor's false narrative harms not only my name, but also potentially subjects me to further harassment and litigation in state, federal or international courts," he said in a statement.
"But, beyond the harms perpetrated against me, Judge Ponsor's 'ruling' can be used by SMUG and CCR to intimidate and punish fellow Christians who dare speak up for Biblical values. I cannot in good conscience countenance these harms."
Staver said Ponsor's actions are improper and that his support for the LGBT agenda influenced his "prejudicial findings." He added that Ponsor's "defamatory statements ... are both illegal and unbecoming."
"It is improper for a judge who clearly lacks jurisdiction to hear a case to make legal findings unrelated to the disposition of the case," he said. "When a court lacks jurisdiction, its only job is to acknowledge that fact and end the case."
"The statements are so far outside the norm that we have filed an appeal to ask that these prejudicial and unnecessary statements be stricken. Judges may hold personal opinions like anyone else, but they should restrain themselves from lacing court rulings with them, especially when they admit they lack jurisdiction to hear the case."