I seem to write about a lot of Bob Unruh’s articles. Maybe he’s just the gay writer on WND and I cover a lot of those kinds of articles. This particular one has the headline, “Judge: Foreigners Can Sue U.S. Pastor Over Sermons.”
I hope someone reading this (Nigel?) can comment more, but the legality is an interesting one here. The case was brought against Scott Lively, an incredibly bigoted man who is proud of his involvement in pushing for Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill that makes homosexuality both illegal and a capital offense in Uganda. For those who don’t know, Uganda is a country. In Africa. Scott Lively is a bigot. In America.
He’s being sued by Sexual Minorities Uganda (“SMUG”) under the concept that his speech against homosexuality and his push for the Kill the Gays bill fits the definition of a “crime against humanity” under international law and hence they can sue.
My first reaction was, “Well, I don’t like Scott, I think he’s a horrible person, but how does SMUG have standing for this and how is it not protected under the US’s First Amendment protecting free speech?”
The answer apparently lies in the Alien Tort Statute which states the following: “The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.” So, if the US has a treaty with another country, then someone can sue a person who violates that treaty (such as the UN charter on human rights?) even if that person would not have normal standing in the US.
As I said, hopefully some lawyer is reading this and can comment. That seems weird to me. It also apparently is weird to a lot of people and the US courts and politicians have debated it for over 200 years (it was passed as part of the Judiciary Act of 1789). According to Wikipedia, “scholars have surmised that the Act was intended to assure foreign governments that the U.S. would act to prevent and provide remedies for breaches of customary international law, especially breaches concerning diplomats and merchants.” Fascinating.
But it also means, according to Judge Michael Posner, that SMUG can sue Lively for his work pushing the Ugandan anti-homosexual bill. Note that this is not saying anything yet about whether SMUG actually has a case. Just that under the Alien Tort Statute, SMUG has standing and the case can be adjudicated.
WND states the following with respect to Judge Posner:
He sided with the “gays” in his first paragraph, explaining that while SMUG is made up of groups “that advocate for the fair and equal treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people,” Lively is an “American citizen residing in Springfield, Mass., who, according to the complaint, holds himself out to be an expert on what he terms the ‘gay movement.’”
The judge cited “many authorities” who “implicitly support the principle that widespread, systematic persecution of individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity constitutes a crime against humanity.”
The judge argued that the idea that Lively’s statements are protected under the First Amendment was “premature.”
“Indeed, defendant, according to the amended complaint, is alleged to have maintained what amounts to a kind of ‘Homophobia Central” in Springfield,” the judge wrote.
“He has allegedly supported and actively participated in worldwide initiatives, with a substantial focus on Uganda, aimed at repressing free expression by LGBTI groups, destroying the organizations that support them, intimidating LGBTI individuals, and even criminalizing the very status of being lesbian or gay.”
WND summarizes SMUG’s complaint as this: “The case against Lively claims that by speaking in opposition to homosexuality, he was conspiring to deprive the plaintiffs of their fundamental rights.”
Now, there’s about 50% more to the article, but that really covers the salient points. Oh, except that in the last several paragraphs, WND makes it very clear that Uganda is a Christian nation and “the president … dedicated Uganda to God.”
It’s really not worth going into the over 300 comments here. I’m sure you can imagine what they say. Well, I lied … one comment is by “gary lacey” who wrote, “Everything the Demorats touch is corrupted, schools, colleges, city halls, state capitals, judges, police, they have left no rock unturned.”
That plucky guy “Arch” replied to him with, “It appears as though the Alien Tort Statute was passed in 1789 as part of that Judiciary Act, proposed by Richard Henry Lee (of the Anti-Administration party led by Thomas Jefferson) and then signed into law by Washington. I’m honestly confused — what does this statute have to do with Democrats?” I love it when people point out that the Founding Fathers (who the Tea Party right-wing nutsos LOVE) are behind something rather than a favored enemy.
As of this writing, “gary lacey”‘s comment has 27 up-votes and 1 down, while Arch’s has 4 up and 0 down. “gary” replied with, “The !st Amendment trumps that.” Which I think is a total non sequitur having nothing to do with Arch’s comment and question, but somehow it got 2 up-votes. “simon407” responded with, “It has nothing to do with Dems, but he won’t let that stop him!” 1 up-vote.
Edited to Add (December 15, 2013): Joe.My.God points out that a judge has denied Scott Lively’s “plea” to suspend his trial whilst he appeals to a higher court. I admit I’m slightly surprised by this, but I know next to zero about how this kind of stuff works.
Edited to Add (April 22, 2014): WND’s Bob Unruh keeps the story alive on April 19 with, “Criticize ‘Gays,’ Get Sued for ‘Crime Against Humanity.'” It appears to just be an interview with Lively’s lawyer.