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Judge: Lively case tests free speech & equal protection rights

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Judge: Lively case tests free speech & equal protection rights

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — Beyond Scott Lively's "expressive behaviour," an American federal judge hearing arguments in a lawsuit filed by gay Ugandans accusing Lively of "crime against humanity" said he is "struggling" to see how the anti-gay evangelist violated federal law. 

The lawsuit was filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) on behalf of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and accuses Lively, president of Abiding Truth Ministries, of waging a “decade-long campaign . . . in coordination with his Ugandan counterparts, to persecute persons on the basis of their gender and/or sexual orientation and gender identity.” 

During a 90-minute hearing in a District Court in Springfield, Massachusetts, Judge Michael A Ponsor said the plaintiffs had to demonstrate a connection between Lively’s anti-gay advocacy in Uganda and illegal acts committed against gays in the country, a masslive.com report says. Ponsor added that the plaintiffs “needed to show a more concrete example of misbehavior to justify continuation of the lawsuit.”

But the judge was also not swayed by Lively's motion to dismiss the case before trial, saying the courts have a high legal threshold for throwing out cases.

The suit states in part that “Lively’s 2009 work in Uganda and his call to arms to fight against an ‘evil’ and ‘genocidal,’ ‘pedophilic’ ‘gay movement,’ which he likened to the Nazis and Rwandan murderers, ignited a cultural panic and atmosphere of terror that radically intensified the climate of hatred in which Lively’s goals of persecution could advance. Shortly after Lively’s pivotal 2009 work in Uganda, one member of Parliament [Christopher Kibansanga, shadow minister of information and national guidance] said, ‘We must exterminate homosexuals before they exterminate society.’”  

The suit is filed under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), which the CCR says "allows a foreign national to sue in US courts for violations of US or international law conducted by US citizens overseas." 

Ponsor, who said the case presents a test of the evangelist's free-speech protection and the rights of sexual minorities to equal protection under the law, did not say when he would rule on the motion to dismiss. 

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