Uganda’s parliament passed an anti-homosexuality bill Dec 20 that makes being gay and lesbian an offence punishable by life in prison. One person who deserves much of the credit for the creation of the bill is anti-gay American evangelical pastor Scott Lively.
The legislation is the result of years of work by American Christian evangelicals, including Lively, who have spent time in Uganda to warn people about the “dangers of sodomy” and the “homosexualist movement.”
Lively’s role is specific and well documented. The Springfield, Massachusetts-based evangelist has bragged that he “dropped a nuclear bomb” in Uganda during a conference in 2009. Since then, violence, death threats and daily attacks against LGBT Ugandans has been on the rise.
Reached by phone, Lively was dismissive when asked for comment.
“Yeah, well, I don’t support the harsh penalties of the bill. I never did,” he says. “I proposed language that would have focused on rehabilitation and prevention. I have been very clear from the beginning . . . I have never supported the bill. I did not advocate for it.”
That’s not true, says Reverend Kapya Kaoma, an Anglican priest who is a researcher at Political Research Associates. Now based in Boston but originally from Africa, Kaoma puts the blame squarely on Lively, a preacher whose anti-gay message failed in the US before he emerged as a celebrity in Uganda.
“Africa became the dumping place for his extreme ideas,” Kaoma says in the film God Loves Uganda. “After listening to Dr Lively, the parliament felt that there was a need to come up with a new bill. The infamous Anti-Homosexuality Bill was introduced soon after the anti-gay conference that Scott Lively headlined in 2009.”
The anti-homosexuality bill originally proposed the death penalty for some offences, but this has been replaced with life in prison. However, the most concerning piece for some remains the stipulation that parents of queer youth will be required by law to turn in their gay kids to police.
When pressed further about how the bill will affect the lives of LGBT people, Lively accused Xtra of not understanding the culture of Uganda.
“How do you know this will produce violence and discrimination? How do you know that? That’s just speculation,” he says.
Lively is now facing trial for crimes against humanity, specifically for his alleged support of the bill, but he hangs up the phone before Xtra can ask him about this.
The lawsuit, filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) on behalf of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), accuses Lively of waging a “decade-long campaign . . . in coordination with his Ugandan counterparts, to persecute persons on the basis of their gender and/or sexual orientation and gender identity.”
The suit names pastor Stephen Langa; Ugandan preacher Martin Ssempa; James Buturo, Uganda's ethics and integrity minister; and Ugandan MP David Bahati, as Lively's alleged co-conspirators in coordinating a "dramatic, far-reaching response" against the "prospect of basic legal protections for LGBTI individuals."
In the ruling, Judge Michael Ponsor said, “widespread, systematic persecution of LGBTI people constitutes a crime against humanity that unquestionably violates international norms."
The context of Lively's actions is important, the lawsuit adds, alleging that Lively "knew that Uganda presented fertile ground and — through his willing accomplices with access to political power — a realistic opportunity to meaningfully provoke the persecution of the LGBTI community, that he focused much of his decade-long efforts there."
Lively's Abiding Truth Ministries is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
And Lively hasn’t stopped with Uganda.
In October, he wrote an open letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin telling him that his anti-gay gag law banning "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" among minors might not be enough.
"Few political agendas in the history of mankind have marshaled the tenacity and resolve of the homosexualist movement. Its activists are driven by an implacable militancy and a zeal to advance their own self-serving interests that rivals even the most fanatical religious cult,” Lively wrote.
Lively is also the author of The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party, in which he proclaims that gays were responsible for the Holocaust and were leaders in Hitler’s inner circle.