Washington DC – Liberty Counsel has agreed to represent Rev. Scott Lively, an evangelical pastor who was sued in a Massachusetts federal court by a foreign group called Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG). The premise for this lawsuit is based upon the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). The ATS provides a cause of action for violations of international laws that are “specific, universal, and obligatory.” Courts have found torture, cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity; summary execution, prolonged arbitrary detention, and forced disappearance to be actionable under the ATS. The lawsuit claims that beginning in 2002, Rev. Lively preached in Ugandan churches and shared his opinion on homosexuality and pornography. It further claims that as a result (albeit a convoluted one), some members of the so-called LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex) community faced discrimination, and one (SMUG Advocacy Director David Kato) was killed on January 26, 2011. The suit leaves out the fact that the suspected killer is a male prostitute with which Kato had sex and refused to pay.
The suit is a direct attempt to silence Rev. Lively because of his speech about homosexuality and pornography. The Supreme Court recently heard Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum on the issue of whether the ATS allows corporations to be sued. Following oral argument, the Court ordered new briefing and will rehear the case in the fall on the broader question of “[w]hether and under what circumstances the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1350, allows courts to recognize a cause of action for violations of the law of nations occurring within the territory of a sovereign other than the United States.” This case against Rev. Lively is an example of why the ATS should not be used to allow a foreigner to file suit against a U.S. citizen in the United States, claiming a violation of some vague international norm allegedly committed in the foreigner’s home country.
Mathew Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, commented:
“This lawsuit against Rev. Scott Lively is a gross attempt to use a
vague international law to silence, and eventually criminalize, speech
by U.S. citizens on homosexuality and moral issues. This suit should
cause everyone to be concerned, because it a direct threat against
freedom of speech.”