The case against anti-gay extremist and evangelical Scott Lively for “crimes against humanity” was dismissed last week on a jurisdictional issue, and yet Lively has sought the aid of the Liberty Council to repeal the language that Judge Ponsor used in his ruling. According to the Daily Beast, Ponsor stated that Lively facilitated efforts to “restrict freedom of expression” by Ugandan members of the LGBTI community, “to suppress their civil rights, and . . . to make the very existence of LGBTI people in Uganda a crime.” Apparently these observations by the judge were offensive to Lively, a Christian who once played a key role in the drafting of Uganda’s 2009 Anti-Homosexuality Bill which called for the execution of homosexuals.
I can understand Lively’s hurt feelings about Ponsor’s remarks. When allegations are made about a public figure by a powerful wielder of the law, the reputation of the accused can be irreversibly damaged, regardless of the outcome of a case. And Ponsor really laid into Lively, calling his evangelical work both “pathetic” and “crackpot bigotry.”
However, despite Lively’s boohooing, there was nothing overstated or inaccurate about Ponsor’s remarks; Lively, along with many other Christian activists—including the president of the National Organization for the Family, Brian Brown—have been a part of a global campaign to criminalize homosexuality for years, and some might even say that they’re just getting started.
But how did we get here?
When the LGBTQ rights movement gained solid footing in the U.S. in the late nineties, conservatives foretold a losing battle against the “gay agenda” in the States; they knew it would only take one ultra-liberal administration to reverse the discriminatory legislation they had worked so tirelessly to enact into law. Before Barack Obama was even elected, evangelicals—whose unparalleled ability to organize against sexual minorities can be traced back to Anita Bryant’s 1977 “Save Our Children” campaign—set their sights on the developing world, where they could simultaneously evangelize Christianity and disseminate extremist anti-LGBTQ propaganda.
When Lively visited Uganda in 2009, he helped to organize the “Seminar on Exposing the Homosexual’s Agenda.” Borrowing the rhetoric of Bryant that has proved so successful for the Christian Right since the seventies, Lively warned the audience of parliamentarians, parents, and police officers that “legalizing homosexuality” was akin to accepting the “molestation of children and having sex with animals,” and that homosexuals only wish to abuse and recruit children, promote divorce, and spread the AIDS virus.
Lively’s objection to the “language” of Ponsor’s ruling is ironic, only because it was the language of Lively’s speech at the anti-gay seminar in Uganda that ultimately dictated the wording of the “Kill the Gays” legislation a month later. The bill declared homosexuals must be executed because the “promotion of homosexual behavior” would undermine their “traditional family values,” and that “homosexuality has a variety of negative consequences including higher incidences of violence, sexually transmitted diseases, and use of drugs . . .”
In 2013, Scott Lively and Brian Brown played a major role in Russia’s international anti-gay adoption legislation and infamous “gay propaganda” bill, the latter of which created a dramatic uptick in anti-LGBTQ hate crimes in the country, and led to investigations of gay-friendly children’s book authors and the firing of gay teachers. With the help and encouragement of American evangelicals, Russia hoped to thwart the “spread” of homosexuality and forever silence the LGBTQ community so that one day, if all goes according to plan, gays can be wiped off the map for good.
Lively believes that the gay propaganda bill was his “greatest success,” and Brian Brown hopes that their work will “enable the development of the movement around the world.”
So now we have Chechnya, where gay men are being arrested, taken to detention centers, tortured, and even murdered. Here’s where Lively might say, “Now wait a minute, those are Muslims that are killing the gays, and not us Christians,” and Lively would be right; after all, President Kadyrov—proud denier of the mere existence of gay Chechens—is Muslim, and Islam is the predominant religion of the southwest region of Russia.
But what Lively wouldn’t soon admit is the fact that evangelicals are taking pages out of the Chechen’s gay-hating playbook to inspire the international Christian masses in their global assault on homosexuals. In other words, they’re warning Christians that if they don’t start upping their game against gays, they’re going to lose converts to Islam. After all, nobody wants to be part of a team that isn’t as homophobic as the other guy’s. That would just be embarrassing.
Even more embarrassing than being told off by a District Court judge in a Massachusetts courtroom.
Yes, the United States has seen epic legislative gains for LGBTQ rights in recent years—and so has the world, for that matter. But it’s vital for us to understand that while we proudly check the “married” box on our tax forms and our adoption applications, gay men and women abroad are regularly being publicly humiliated, jailed, tortured, and murdered, all because of the relentless work of evangelical Americans.
And all in the name of God.