Liberty Counsel Files Motion to Dismiss SMUG Case

Jul 6, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, MA – Liberty Counsel filed a motion for summary judgment in a lawsuit filed by Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) against Pastor Scott Lively, in which SMUG seeks to silence and impose significant financial penalties against Lively for speech about homosexuality in Uganda. The motion contains 198 pages of facts and legal argument.

In the suit, SMUG alleges that Lively committed “crimes against humanity” in violation of “international law”—akin to genocide and war crimes—by simply sharing his biblical views on homosexuality during three visits to Uganda in 2002 and 2009. The suit makes the sensational claim that Lively’s visits were part of a “conspiracy” to “persecute” the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex) population of Uganda. SMUG alleged Lively orchestrated rampant “discrimination” and even violence against the LGBTI community, leading to the death of SMUG leader David Kato.

Four years, 100 hours of depositions, and 40,000 pages of documents later, SMUG failed to produce a shred of evidence of any conspiracy or persecution by Lively. The evidence shows that Lively, in a country where homosexuality has been illegal for decades, urged treatment of LGBTI people with respect and dignity, and the liberalization of Uganda’s laws against homosexuality, even as he spoke in favor of biblical sexual morality and against the LGBTI political agenda. SMUG also admitted it knew all along that its leader, Kato, was murdered by a homosexual prostitute whom Kato refused to pay, and admitted that it was wrong to suggest otherwise in its lawsuit.

The lawsuit is based upon the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), but the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that this law cannot be used to sue U.S. citizens alleging violation of international or foreign law. Neither Ugandan nor U.S. law provide a cause of action for SMUG, so SMUG is trying to create new precedent to punish speech. Following the Supreme Court opinion on the ATS, court after court dismissed pending suits in a wide variety of cases, but the federal court hearing the SMUG case refused to dismiss.

“The suit is an attempt to silence Pastor Scott Lively because of his speech about homosexuality and pornography. The implications of this suit are frightening because SMUG is trying to punish a U.S. citizen for constitutionally protected speech under some vague and undefined international law,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “From the beginning this case had no merit, but we have had to spend four years and countless hours defending an innocent pastor against a lawsuit designed only to intimidate. This case is a direct assault on the supremacy of the United States Constitution,” said Staver.

Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.