Arguments begin in case of minister accused of ‘crimes against humanity’ for homosexuality remarks
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., January 7, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) — Lawyers for a Massachusetts pastor have asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed against him by a foreign homosexual advocacy group accusing him of “crimes against humanity.”
During a 90-minute hearing on Monday in U.S. District Court, Judge Michael Ponsor said the lawsuit filed by Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) against Springfield-based minister Scott Lively poses a test of free-speech protection and the rights of sexual minorities to equal protection under the law.
Ponsor heard arguments from lawyers representing both Lively and SMUG. SMUG, represented in court by the George Soros-funded “Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR),” accused Lively of “violating the law of nations” and “crimes against humanity” as well as conspiracy and various “civil rights” crimes because of his outspokenness against the homosexual agenda in Uganda. In their filing, they listed a number of violent acts committed against homosexuals in Uganda that they claim Lively’s speeches against homosexuality incited.
The suit demands compensatory damages, punitive damages, exemplary damages, attorneys’ fees, and a “declaratory judgment that the Defendant’s conduct is in violation of the law of nations” as well as “all such other and further relief that the court may deem just and proper.”
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Judge Ponsor said he was troubled by the lack of connection between local evangelist Scott Lively’s free speech activities in Uganda and acts of violence against gays in the African country.
“I’m frankly struggling to see what behavior beyond expressive behavior” of Lively violated federal law, Ponsor said. SMUG, Ponsor added, “needed to show a more concrete example of misbehavior to justify continuation of the lawsuit.”
Lively’s lawyers asked Judge Ponsor to throw out the case, pointing out that the violent acts detailed in the lawsuit had no connection to Lively whatsoever. They said SMUG is trying to block “peaceful civil discourse” and violate Lively’s First Amendment rights.
But Judge Ponsor said he was reluctant to dismiss the case before trial, saying that the courts have set a high legal bar for throwing cases out. He said he would rule on the motion to dismiss in the near future, but gave no date.
SMUG brought its lawsuit in U.S. Court under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), a federal provision that allows federal courts jurisdiction to hear lawsuits filed by non-U.S. citizens for torts committed in violation of international law.
When the ATS was enacted in 1789, international law dealt primarily with regulating diplomatic relations between States and outlawing crimes such as piracy. But in the late 20th century, as more foreign governments passed binding international laws, activists began using the ATS to file international complaints in U.S. Court. SMUG’s filing is believed to be the first of its kind dealing with homosexuality.