SPRINGFIELD — A federal judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit against controversial Pastor Scott Lively filed in 2012, alleging crimes against humanity linked to Lively’s work in Uganda evangelizing against homosexuality.
Lawyers for human rights groups Sexual Minorities Uganda and the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights filed the lawsuit amid loud applause from gay rights activists. Each court date for the case draws a considerable number of protesters to the federal courthouse on State Street.
Lawyers for Lively attempted to argue for dismissing the case on a number of fronts including jurisdictional issues and free speech protections under the First Amendment. Lively also contended there is a lack of evidence linking him to the alleged persecution of anyone in Uganda.
Filed in March 2012, the lawsuit accuses Lively of fanning anti-gay flames in the East African country during an address to parliament members in 2009.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael A. Ponsor rejected the jurisdictional claims by the defendant, ruling that the plaintiffs were on solid ground under international and federal law and that First Amendment arguments were “premature.”
“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,” Ponsor wrote in a 79-page ruling issued last week.
Lively declined to comment for this story on the advice of his lawyer. However, he has not shied away from answering his detractors in the past. He runs and preaches at the Holy Grounds Cafe on State Street, where his supporters have said that Lively saved them from homelessness and substance abuse, and offered counsel during their lowest moments.
His lawyer, Horatio G. Mihet, of “Liberty Counsel” in Orlando, Fla., issued a brief statement:
“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. We are 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,” Mihet wrote.
Lively, a Shelburne Falls native, at one time said he was exploring a run for governor and posted on his blog late last year that God had a hand in blowing up a strip club on Worthington Street. The blast was actually due to a punctured natural gas line.
When asked by a reporter about the rationale behind his theory that the strip club was leveled by divine intervention, Lively responded:
“My prayer is and has been for God to save the people and destroy the institutions. I think this is a good example of that though it is only speculation that (the cause of the explosion) was God. The fact there were no serious injuries lends weight to that.”
Nearly two dozen gas employees, emergency personnel and bystanders were injured in the explosion; there were no deaths.
Source: Mass Live, “Crimes against humanity lawsuit against anti-gay evangelist Pastor Scott Lively, of Springfield, advances in federal court,” By Stephanie Barry | firstname.lastname@example.org on August 19, 2013 at 8:02 AM, updated August 19, 2013 at 8:09 AM