By Wendy Wright
NEW YORK – C-FAM) A law firm known for publicity-seeking tactics is suing an American minister in U.S. Federal Court because he criticized homosexuality in Uganda.
The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) says pastor and attorney Scott Lively committed “persecution,” a “crime against humanity” as defined in the Rome Statutes of the International Criminal Court.
CRR filed the case in the U.S. on behalf of a Ugandan advocacy group called Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and are using the Alien Tort Claims Act, an old and very controversial U.S. statute that allows foreigners to sue in U.S. court for violations of international law committed outside the U.S.
SMUG charges that Lively “worked extensively with key anti-gay political and religious leaders in Uganda with the overall purpose and objective of depriving LGBTI persons of their fundamental rights” by defeating anti-discrimination legislation on sexual orientation and gender identity, and introducing a bill heightening penalties against homosexuality.
CRR spokesman Pamela Spees told the New York Times, “This is not just based on his speech. It’s based on his conduct.” The lawsuit claims that Lively “traveled to Uganda twice,” “spoke at a ‘Seminar on Exposing the Homosexual Agenda,’” “held an all-day pastors’ conference allowing only invited media or guests,” “addressed students at Nkumbe University on the ‘Dangers of the Culture of Porn,’” “led a service at the Ugandan Christian University,” “met with the Kampala City Council” and other activities the group considers objectionable and legally actionable.
SMUG claims their members have suffered “severe deprivations” of “freedom of expression, association, assembly and the press; . . . to be free from attacks upon one’s honor and reputation,” and fears harassment, arbitrary arrest and physical harm, including death.
The complaint begins with the bombshell claim that the bludgeoning murder of SMUG member David Kato was somehow connected to Lively’s work in Uganda. Not mentioned is that a man Kato bailed out of jail confessed to killing him for making unwanted sexual demands. He’s been sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Ugandan legislators introduced a bill criminalizing the promotion of homosexuality. It included the death penalty for a person with AIDS engaging in homosexual sex with a minor or disabled person, or if the perpetrator is a “serial offender.” The bill has not passed.
Lively was disappointed the legislation “is so harsh.” He advocates for remedies focused on rehabilitation, not punishment.
Lively called the accusations against him “absurd.” “Implying that my speech and writings about homosexuality overpowered the intelligence and independence of the entire government and population of Uganda, bending them to my supposedly nefarious will is a breathtakingly insulting and racist premise.”
CRR describes itself as “committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.” CRR was co-founded by William Kunstler, a self-described “radical lawyer” famous for representing sometimes violent political and social activists. The law firm uses the courts to advance the activists’ work. Its strategy is “Success without victory,” that is, choosing cases not to win but to generate media or bolster the activists.
[Blogger note: Such a case might set a precedent for foreign people’s whose constitutional rights has been undermined or destroyed by the conduct of NGOs and groups like CRR who use the foreign courts for nullify legislation of their approval.]
Wendy Wright is interim executive director of the Catholic Familiy and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM). Her article first appeared in Friday Fax, an internet report published weekly by C-FAM, a New York and Washington DC-based research institute (http://www.c-fam.org/). This article appears with permission.