Earlier this year, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a lawsuit in U.S. federal court against Abiding Truth Ministries founder Scott Lively, on behalf of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). The suit alleged that Lively's anti-gay activism in Uganda constituted persecution of the Ugandan LGBT community. According to the New York Times, the suit also named four co-conspirators: Stephen Langa (the organizer of a 2009 anti-gay seminar in Uganda), Martin Ssempa (an anti-gay Ugandan religious leader), and David Bahati (the Ugandan MP behind a draconian anti-gay bill). The background of the suit, including Lively's anti-gay efforts in Uganda, were discussed in a prior post.
On June 22nd, Liberty Counsel submitted a motion to dismiss the SMUG suit. According to the motion paperwork, Liberty Counsel claims that U.S. federal court does not have appropriate jurisdiction over the case. In a companion memo, Liberty Counsel argues that Lively's "non-violent political speech" is protected by the First Amendment, and that it does not constitute persecution. Moreover, the memo says that SMUG has not demonstrated that persecution based on sexual orientation or gender identity is "universally accepted and clearly defined," nor has it alleged conduct on Lively's part that violates "universally accepted" international norms. (See www[dot]liberty[dot]edu/media/9980/attachments/pr_motion_to_dismiss_lively_062212.pdf)
In a June 27th press release, Liberty Counsel called the Center for Constitutional Rights a "George Soros-funded, radical “civil rights” group." It insisted that Lively's anti-gay activism in Uganda was little more than "civil, peaceful, political discourse." Furthermore, Liberty Counsel chairman Mat Staver lambasted the SMUG suit as an attack on the "supremacy" of the Constitution. “SMUG is seeking to render the bedrock protections of the First Amendment subservient to the vague and fluid dictates of international law,” he insisted. (See www[dot]lc[dot]org/index.cfm?PID=14100&PRID=1206)
In a June 29th statement, Scott Lively called the Liberty Counsel motion a "masterpiece," ridiculing the SMUG suit as "bogus and frivolous." (See www[dot]defendthefamily[dot]com/pfrc/newsarchives.php?id=6149954)
Some voices from the right took note of Liberty Counsel's move. For example, a June 27th article at Charisma News called the SMUG suit an "attack" on Lively by the "gay agenda," using language from the Liberty Counsel press release. Additionally, in a commentary at World Net Daily, Bob Unruh argues that "sharing Christian belief" is not a crime against humanity, calling Lively's anti-gay rhetoric an expression of "biblically based belief." Thus, Unruh correlated homophobia with Christian faith, ignoring the fact that one is not necessarily a reflection of the other.
I'm disappointed but not susprised that Lively and the Liberty Counsel would seek dismissal of SMUG's suit. SMUG and the CCR have taken a bold step in publicizing Lively's homophobia and holding him accountable for his rhetoric, and I am eager to see if their suit moves forward.
Hat tip to Right Wing Watch. For additional commentary, visit the following link.
The Slowly Boiled Frog: Liberty Counsel seeking dismissal in SMUG v. Scott Lively