Scott Lively is not your average Christian homophobe. Most anti-gay Christians stop short of calling for the annihilation of gay people; and the occasional unhinged pastor, such as Steven Anderson, who wants the death penalty for homosexuals, has no serious political clout and no way of pushing the government into enacting such legislation.
But Lively had just such a chance when, in 2009, he became involved in Uganda’s infamous Kill the Gays bill. Fortunately, that shocking legislation was first toned down to become the “Just Put Gay People in Jail for Life” bill, as our own Hännah Ettinger remarked archly, and was then defeated on a technicality back in August of this year.
That doesn’t change the allegations that Lively, in the flesh, consulted with rabidly anti-gay Ugandan legislators, and in general fanned the flames of extreme anti-gay hysteria in that country, with fatal results for some.
Wrote eye-witness Kapya Kaoma in the L.A. Times:
Some of [Lively’s] assertions [in Uganda] would have been laughable had he not been so deadly serious. He claimed that a gay clique that included Adolf Hitler was behind the Holocaust, and he insinuated that gay people fueled the Rwandan genocide. … [I]n Uganda, he was presented — and accepted — as a leading international authority. The public persecution of LGBTQ people escalated after Lively’s conference, with one local newspaper publishing the pictures and addresses of [gay] activists under the headline, “Hang Them.”
In 2012, the group Sexual Minorities of Uganda, via a sympathetic organization in the U.S., filed suit against Lively, contending that the pastor’s virtual fingerprints were all over the Kill the Gays bill. Lively says he never personally conspired with religious or political leaders to persecute gay citizens, and asked the court system to invalidate the suit.
Now, via Death and Taxes, we learn that that he’ll have to stand trial after all.
The First Circuit Court of Appeals has denied Pastor Scott Lively’s petition to have a crimes against humanity lawsuit against him dropped.
The anti-gay pastor will stand trial in a federal court in Massachusetts for his part in crafting Uganda’s notorious Anti-Homosexuality Act, popularly known as the “Kill the Gays” bill. The bill was largely the product of a workshop held in Uganda by Lively and two other american anti-gay activists, focused on “how to make gay people straight, how gay men often sodomized teenage boys and how ‘the gay movement is an evil institution’ whose goal is ‘to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity.”
As much as I’ll enjoy seeing Lively squirm in court, Jonathan Rauch makes a worthwhile point in the Washington Post:
Lawsuits are a lousy instrument for dealing with this problem. If Lively wins, he’s a right-wing hero; if he loses, he’s a martyr. Either way, this case has potential to spread his fame far and wide and inspire imitators. He might succeed in commandeering the Supreme Court as his stage. All pretty enticing for a nut case from the fever swamps.
But what’s the alternative? Ignore him? Let bygones be bygones? Pretend the incitement didn’t happen?
I don’t think Rauch’s suggestion, below, will work, and I don’t think he believes so either. Christian leaders, he says,
… should treat Lively the way white blood cells treat a bacillus, walling him off before he discredits evangelicals more broadly — as surely he will.
But to my knowledge, not a single prominent U.S. Christian leader has spoken up. Not one. Think about that.
I wonder: if it were Jews instead of gays that Lively were going after, would the silence from mainstream Christians be more obvious?
Perhaps the silence and the shrugs from prominent evangelicals speak volumes about whether they truly believe in the love-thy-neighbor principle that they say Jesus promoted.
Yes, like Rauch, I’d rather see them speak out against the worst of the homophobes in their midsts. But as long as they don’t, the golden lining is that they keep company with genocidally inclined sociopaths, exposing themselves for all to see as Christian fellow travelers with a remarkable tolerance for malignant zealotry.