US rights group sues evangelical leader for aiding Uganda anti-gay movement

[JURIST] The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) [advocacy website] on Wednesday filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; case website] against Scott Lively, a US pastor with Abiding Truth Ministries [advocacy website], for enabling the anti-gay movement in Uganda [BBC backgrounder]. The suit, filed in the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts [official website] on behalf of the Ugandan rights group Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) [advocacy website], is the first to allege lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) harassment as a violation of the Alien Tort Statute [text], which allows survivors of human rights abuses to file suit against American citizens who perpetrated them in violation of US treaties. CCR and SMUG charge that Lively aided in drafting and publicizing the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill [text, PDF], colloquially known as the "kill the gays bill," which aims to sentence open homosexuals to life in prison or the death penalty. The complaint alleges that generally, Lively's goals have been to perpetuate abuse against the LGBTI community:

In large part due to defendant Lively's contributions to the conspiracy to persecute LGBTI persons in Uganda, plaintiff SMUG, as an entity, as well as its individual staff-members and member organizations, have suffered severe deptivations of fundamental rights. Their very existence has been demonized through a coordinated campaign, which Lively has largely initiated, instigated and directed, to attribute to the "genocidal" "gay movement" an irrepressible predilection to commit rape and child sexual abuse. ... [T]hey have endured severe discrimination in virtually every meaningful aspect of their civil and political lives; their association has been criminalized; their advocacy on issues central to their health and political participating has been suppressed and punished; and they have been subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. As a result, many individual members of SMUG and its constituent organizations live in persistent fear of harassment, arbitrary arrest and physical harm, including death.
The complaint also alleges collusion with Ugandan Minister of Ethics and Integrity James Buturo and Member of Parliament David Bahati. After the suit was announced, protests began [MassLive report] both supporting and against Lively. Lively stated he will defend against the suit [press release].

Uganda's growing anti-LGBTI actions have been internationally scrutinized since the murder of prominent gay rights activist David Kato [BBC report] last January. Kato was the advocacy officer of SMUG. In November, the Ugandan High Court sentenced a man to 30 years in prison [JURIST report] for Kato's murder. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] released a statement last month condemning the recent anti-gay actions [JURIST report] by the government. Minister for Ethics and Integrity Simon Lokodo shut down an LGBT workshop that month by advocacy group Freedom and Roam, declaring it illegal and trying to arrest the leader. That incident occurred shortly after the Parliament of Uganda [official website] brought back the aforementioned anti-gay bill [JURIST report]. In February 2010, US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly denounced the proposed legislation and the month before, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay warned that it could harm Uganda's reputation [JURIST reports] internationally.

 

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