Tag Archives: Liberty Counsel

Wisconsin school nixes reading of book about transgender kid

A southern Wisconsin elementary school canceled a planned reading of a children’s book about a transgender girl after a group threatened to sue.

The Mount Horeb Area School District released a statement saying it would not proceed with its planned reading of I am Jazz, the Capital Times reported. The district said it would give the board of education the opportunity to address a situation for which the district has no current policy.

Earlier in November, the principal of Mount Horeb Primary Center sent a letter to parents saying the book would be read and discussed because the school has a student who identifies as a girl but was born with male anatomy.

“We believe all students deserve respect and support regardless of their gender identity and expression and the best way to foster that respect and support is through educating students about the issue of being transgender,” the letter said.

The Florida-based Liberty Counsel threatened to sue, saying it was contacted by concerned parents. Reading the book would violate parental rights, claimed the Liberty Counsel. The Southern Poverty Law Center classifies the Liberty Counsel as a hate group that advocates for “anti-LGBT discrimination, under the guise of religious liberty.”

In its statement, the district said as it seeks to address the needs of the individual student, it will be mindful of the needs of other students and families. It also said families whose children may be affected will be notified of future actions and the goal is to protect all students from bullying so they can learn together in a safe environment.

Gay couples get licenses, Kentucky clerk seeks martyrdom

A gay couple emerged from a county clerk’s office in Morehead, Kentucky, with a marriage license in hand early on Sept. 4, embracing and crying, as the defiant clerk who runs the office remained jailed for repeatedly refusing to allow the licenses to be issued.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis has insisted that forcing her to affirm same-sex marriage violates her religious convictions as a born-again, fundamentalist Christian. To date, she’s lost her fight at every level of federal court, including the U.S. Supreme Court.

After being denied a marriage license four times prior, William Smith Jr. and James Yates, a couple for nearly a decade, were the first to receive one in Rowan County. Deputy clerk Brian Mason issued the license, congratulating the couple and shaking their hands as he smiled.

“This means at least for this area that civil rights are civil rights and they are not subject to belief,” Yates said. 

A crowd of supporters cheered outside as the couple left, while a street preacher rained down words of condemnation. Yates and Smith said they are trying to choose between two wedding dates and plan a small ceremony at the home of Yates’ parents.

The licenses were issued after five of Davis’ deputy clerks agreed to provide them. The lone holdout in the office was Davis’ son, Nathan Davis. And Kim Davis’ office was dark as the first license was issued.

That’s because Kim Davis, at the time, was in jail for contempt of court.

In contempt

During a hearing the day before, U.S. District Judge David Bunning ordered Davis to be taken to jail unless she promised not to interfere with her employees issuing licenses. She refused, citing her Christian beliefs.

Speaking to reporters, Davis’ fourth husband, Joe Davis, held a sign saying, “Welcome to Sodom and Gomorrah.” He said his wife was in good spirits after her first night in jail.

Kim Davis would spend four more nights in jail before Bunning released her on Sept. 8.

During that time, Davis, through her legal representation at the ultra-right-wing Liberty Counsel, sought legislative relief from abiding by federal law and the federal order. But Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear refused to call a special session of the Legislature, which will not convene until January 2016.

‘A good person’

Davis, an Apostolic Christian, wept during her testimony in court on Sept. 3, telling the judge she was “always a good person” and that she gave her heart to the Lord in 2011 and “promised to love Him with all my heart, mind and soul because I wanted to make heaven my home.”

“God’s moral law conflicts with my job duties,” Davis told the judge before she was taken away by a U.S. marshal. “You can’t be separated from something that’s in your heart and in your soul.”

But prior to finding Jesus and imposing what she believes to be his teachings on others, Davis led a life that critics have derided as ungodly. Internet commenters have lambasted Davis as a hypocrite for her multiple marriages and adulterous affairs. Her marital history reads like a soap opera plot: She became pregnant with twins by her third husband while married to her first husband. She then convinced her second husband to adopt them, before leaving him and marrying the twins’ father — only to leave him, too, for her fourth husband.

Davis is trying to raise money to cover her legal bills with the anti-gay Liberty Counsel. Gofundme.com refused to post an appeal on her behalf, citing its policy of not providing a platform for people who have broken the law.

The notorious anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church has joined the chorus of voices speaking out against Davis. Westboro members tweeted that Davis is going to hell along with the gay couples she refused to marry.

But around the country, other evangelical supporters reached for Biblical heroes, comparing Davis to Silas and Daniel, imprisoned for their faith and rescued by God.

It’s precisely the narrative gay rights advocates had hoped to avoid. But as Davis’ mug shot rocketed around the Internet, it became clear that the gay rights movement must battle the argument that Christianity is under siege, said Kenneth Upton, senior counsel for Lambda Legal, a civil liberties group focused on LGBT rights.

“This is what the other side wants,” Upton said, pointing to the image of Davis in handcuffs. “This is a Biblical story, to go to jail for your faith. We don’t want to make her a martyr to the people who are like her, who want to paint themselves as victims.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, representing couples Kim Davis turned away, had asked that she be fined rather than imprisoned, in part to avoid “a false persecution story,” said attorney Dan Canon.

But Bunning ordered her to jail anyway, reasoning that she would be unmoved by monetary penalties.

“I think he was trying to make an example of Kim Davis and he may well do so,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, which has been designated an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. “Courage breeds courage, especially when it comes from unlikely places. She may be the example that sparks a firestorm of resistance across this country.”

Chris Hartman, director of Louisville’s Fairness Campaign, dismissed the small number of holdout clerks as a “blip on the radar of civil rights.”

Since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage nationwide in June, only about 17 clerks and judges, many of them advised by the Liberty Counsel, have refused to comply. They stopped issuing marriage licenses to any couple, gay or straight. Davis was the first to be challenged in court.

Rosa Parks or George Wallace?

Yet Davis is suddenly famous around the globe as the face of Christian resistance to gay marriage.

After meeting with Davis in jail, Liberty Counsel attorney Mat Staver said “she is a prisoner of her conscience.” He quoted the letter Martin Luther King Jr. wrote from his Birmingham jail cell in 1963, rallying civil rights activists to challenge unjust laws and pay the consequences if necessary to force peaceful change.

He described Davis as the first American imprisoned for a religious objection to gay marriage.

The lawyers suing her dismissed that notion. “This is the billionth time a person has been jailed for violating a court order,” Canon said.

Historically, backlash has proven inevitable in the face of sweeping social change. When the Supreme Court ordered the integration of public schools in the 1960s, many local officials refused to comply with the ruling. The National Guard had to be sent to Southern cities and towns to escort African-American students into what were previously all-white schools. Racists cited biblical passages to justify their actions.

“It’s ironic when you think about it, when the basis of being oppressed is that people won’t let you discriminate anymore,” said Lambda Legal’s Upton. “It’s like an Alice in Wonderland world.”

Columbia Law School professor Katherine Franke, who has studied the intersection of public service and personal faith, said Davis has “elected to make herself a martyr.

And some in the crowded field of Republican presidential candidates are backing her. Candidate Mike Huckabee, a former Baptist minister, visited Kentucky to meet with Davis and join demonstrators at a rally the day she was released from jail. Huckabee said, “We must end the criminalization of Christianity.”

Meanwhile, GOP candidates Carly Fiorina and Lindsey Graham said Davis should follow the law or resign.

And even some conservative veterans of “religious freedom” fights worried that Davis makes a bad case for martyrdom.

Her insistence on keeping her elected position while ignoring federal court orders was sharply criticized in the National Review and The American Conservative, and Russell Moore and Andrew T. Walker, who serve on the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, wrote that “religious liberty itself will be imperiled” if people “cannot differentiate between the freedom to exercise one’s religion and the responsibility of agents of the state to carry out the law.”

Still, Perkins and others on the religious right promised that dozens of Kim Davises are ready to go to jail in defense of their religious freedoms.

Returning to office

Davis walked out of the Carter County Detention Center’s front door on Sept. 8, arm-in-arm with Staver and Huckabee as thousands of supporters cheered and waved white crosses backed by a 150-voice church choir. Some in the crowd sang “Amazing Grace” and “God Bless America.”

Bunning lifted the contempt ruling saying he was satisfied that her deputies were fulfilling their obligation to grant licenses to same-sex couples in her absence. But Bunning’s order was clear: If Davis interferes with the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples upon her return, she could go right back to jail.

As WiG went to press on Sept. 9, it was unclear whether Davis would follow Bunning’s order or continue to ignore the court and the law, as she repeatedly did before her jailing.

“I just want to give God the glory. His people have rallied, and you are a strong people,” Davis said after her release, her arms raised and with “Eye of the Tiger” playing.

Staver told the press that Davis “will not violate her conscience” and that she will not resign from her elected job, which pays $80,000 a year and which she inherited from her mother.

Staver also said the marriage licenses issued while Davis was jailed were not valid because they were not given under the authority of the county clerk, a claim the Kentucky attorney general’s office disputes.

‘Oaths mean things’

In jailing Kim Davis, a judge noted the Kentucky county clerk had sworn an oath to perform her job.

Here is the oath of office taken by Davis: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this Commonwealth, and be faithful and true to the Commonwealth of Kentucky so long as I continue a citizen thereof, and that I will faithfully execute, to the best of my ability, the office of … according to law; and I do further solemnly swear … that since the adoption of the present Constitution, I, being a citizen of this State, have not fought a duel with deadly weapons within this State nor out of it, nor have I sent or accepted a challenge to fight a duel with deadly weapons, nor have I acted as second in carrying a challenge, nor aided or assisted any person thus offending, so help me God.”

What will Jesus do? | Anti-gay Kentucky clerk who refuses to issue same-sex marriage licenses did issue one for transgender man and his wife

A transgender man and his pansexual wife say that embattled anti-gay Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis signed off on their marriage in March after failing to notice that the groom’s birth certificate identified his birth gender as female.

Davis has been in the crosshairs of marriage equality advocates ever since she ordered her staff to stop issuing all marriage licenses following June’s Supreme Court decision legalizing marriage equality. Davis, who has been married four times, said she objects to having her name appear on same-sex marriage licenses due to her deeply felt religious convictions about the sanctity of marriage.

But on March 2 she signed a marriage certificate for Alexis and Camryn Colen. The couple believes that she was unaware that Camryn is a transgender male, according to BuzzFeed news, which spoke to the couple and was provided with a copy of their marriage certificate.

The certificate reads: “I, Kim Davis, Clerk of the County and State aforesaid, do hereby certify that the above and foregoing is a true and correct copy of the Marriage Certificate as recorded.”

Camryn told BuzzFeed that he and his wife went public with their gender and sexual identities in order to push Davis to begin recognizing same-sex marriages.

That’s something Davis has vowed she will never do, despite multiple court rulings against her stance. Most recently, she filed an “emergency” appeal directly to Supreme Court Justice Elana Kagan, who has jurisdiction over her region and voted to strike down laws banning same-sex marriage. Kagan is expected to turn down Davis’ appeal on Monday.

After that, it’s unclear what Davis will do.

Like Hitler, only without the genocide

Davis’ attorney Jonathan D. Christman, with the Christian-right law firm Liberty Counsel, wrote the court that forcing Davis to abandon what she claims to be her “Christian principles” by issuing “licenses could never be undone” and would “would forever, and irreversibly, echo in her conscience — and, “if it happened, there is no absolution or correction that any earthly court can provide to rectify it.”

It’s unknown whether Jesus will provide her with absolution for the license she signed marrying a transgender man and pansexual woman, although opinions from clerics who regularly communicate with the Almighty are certain to surface in the coming days.

Christman compared Davis’ situation to forcing a person who objects to war into the battlefield or forcing a person who opposes capital punishment to carry out an execution.

The Rowan County Clerk’s office is somewhat of a hotbed of nepotism. Davis’ mother previously held her position as clerk, and several family members, including her son and a cousin, work — or have worked — there.

Davis contends that if gay couples want to get married, they could easily drive to a nearby county to get a marriage license. But the couples counter that they have a right to get a marriage license in the county where they live, work and pay taxes.

Davis has said she will not resign from her $80,000-a-year job nor will she ever license a same-sex marriage.

Davis cannot be fired because she is an elected official. The Legislature could impeach her, but that is unlikely given that many state lawmakers in the largely fundamentalist Christian state share her belief that Jesus will forgive anything except issuing a same-sex marriage license.

The Republican president of the state Senate spoke at a rally last week in support of Davis, whose case is increasingly becoming a cause celebre on Fox News and among religious and anti-government fanatics. They claim that the federal government has degenerated into fascism by ordering government officials to carry out laws they don’t like. Many compare Davis’ plight to that of Jews living in Nazi Germany, only without the concentration camps and genocide.

Having lost all appeals, anti-gay Kentucky clerk turns to Supreme Court for right to refuse gay marriage licenses

Two months after it legalized gay marriage nationwide, the U.S. Supreme Court is being asked by a Kentucky county clerk for permission to keep denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who objects to gay marriage for religious reasons, asked the nation’s highest court Friday to grant her “asylum for her conscience.”

The Supreme Court ruled in June that the Constitution guarantees gay people the right to marry. But Davis contends the First Amendment guarantees her the right of religious freedom.

Her critics accuse Davis of having conveniently selective religious convictions, since she’s been married four times and the Bible condemns divorce far more than homosexuality.

She stopped issuing all marriage licenses in the days after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision. Two gay couples and two straight couples sued her, arguing that she must fulfill her duties as an elected official despite her personal Christian conviction. A federal judge ordered Davis to issue the licenses and an appeals court upheld that decision.

Davis’ lawyers said they filed an emergency appeal with the Supreme Court Friday, asking that they delay the mandate to issue licenses until her appeal is finished, a process that could stretch for months.

Forcing her to abandon what she claims to be her “Christian: principles and issue licenses could never be undone, her attorney, Jonathan D. Christman, with the Christian law firm Liberty Counsel, wrote the court. He compared it to forcing a person who objects to war into the battlefield, or forcing a person who opposes capital punishment to carry out an execution.

“That searing act of personal validation would forever, and irreversibly, echo in her conscience — and, if it happened, there is no absolution or correction that any earthly court can provide to rectify it,” he wrote.

But Davis has not only refused to grant such licenses herself but also forbidden her staff, some of whom have expressed their willingness, to issue them. The Rowan County Clerk’s office is somewhat of a hotbed of nepotism. Davis’ mother previously held her position as clerk, and several family members, including her son, work — or have worked — there.

Davis contends that if gay couples want to get married, they could easily drive to a nearby county to get a marriage license. But the couples counter that they have a right to get a marriage license in the county where they live, work and pay taxes.

Davis has said she will not resign from her $80,000-a-year job, and vowed that her office will never license a same-sex marriage. She has turned couples away for two months, in defiance of a series of court orders.

Davis cannot be fired because she is an elected official. The Legislature could impeach her, but that is unlikely given that many state lawmakers in Kentucky are Christian fundamentalists who share her belief, which seems to be that Jesus will forgive everything except issuing a same-sex marriage license.

The Republican president of the state Senate spoke at a rally last week in support of Davis.

Kentucky clerk continues defying orders to issue same-sex marriage licenses

A gay couple marched into the county clerk’s office Aug. 13, carrying a federal judge’s order that said the clerk can’t deny them a marriage license based on her deeply held Christian beliefs.

Still, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis’ office turned them away.

Davis, who’e reportedly been married four times, was among a handful of clerks across the country to cite “deeply held religious beliefs” in denying gay marriage licenses after the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in June. She was the first to be sued and her attorneys vowed to keep fighting in a case legal experts have likened the resistance some local officials put up five decades ago when the Supreme Court legalized interracial marriage.

“We’re going to keep coming back,” said Karen Roberts, shaking after she was denied a license to marry April Miller, her partner of 11 years. “We’re going to fight this to the very end.”

Three other couples streamed into the clerk’s office in this eastern Kentucky college town throughout the morning, and all were denied.

Staff in Davis’ office said she was on vacation. Though she has six employees authorized to issue licenses, deputy clerk Nathan Davis said the office was advised by its attorneys with the Christian law firm Liberty Counsel to continue refusing same-sex couples is it appeals the judge’s decision.

The staff handed one couple a Post-it note with Liberty Counsel’s toll-free phone number.

“Kim Davis is just an example of what’s going to be happening not only to other clerks but to other people who are going to be confronted with this issue and we think that this is a serious matter that needs to be decided by a higher court, even the Supreme Court,” said Liberty Counsel founder Mathew Staver.

Clerks and judges in pockets across the South halted issuing licenses in the days after the Supreme Court’s decision. Some resigned rather than acknowledge a same-sex marriage. Others relented under the threat of legal action and began handing them out. It’s not clear exactly how many clerks nationwide are still refusing to issue licenses, but at least one other county clerk in Kentucky has pledged that he would not.

Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear has told defiant clerks, who are elected, to issue licenses or resign.

U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning said in his ruling that Davis has likely violated the U.S. Constitution’s protection against the establishment of a religion by “openly adopting a policy that promotes her own religious convictions at the expenses of others.”

“Davis remains free to practice her Apostolic Christian beliefs. She may continue to attend church twice a week, participate in Bible Study and minister to female inmates at the Rowan County Jail. She is even free to believe that marriage is a union between one man and one woman, as many Americans do,” Bunning wrote. “However, her religious convictions cannot excuse her from performing the duties that she took an oath to perform as Rowan County Clerk.”

Davis’ attorneys have asked the judge for a stay, and Bunning has not yet ruled.

In the meantime, Laura Landenwich, an attorney for the couples, said they are considering asking the judge to hold Davis in contempt, which could carry a hefty fine or the threat of jail time.

Davis, elected last November as a Democrat, took over the office from her mother, Jean Bailey, who served as county clerk for 37 years, according to the Morehead News. Davis worked under her mother as a deputy clerk for 26 years. Nathan Davis refused to say if he is related to Kim Davis.

The battle has exposed the deep rift that remains in this county of 23,000 people, considered to be among the most progressive in Appalachian Kentucky.

James Yates and William Smith Jr., a couple for nearly a decade, said there was a difference between the clerk’s actions and their experience in Morehead. They held hands as they walked into the clerk’s office, and gay rights activists, who have lined the street with rainbow signs and flags every day for more than a month, shouted “Good luck!”

Still, some of the couples struggled to reconcile their support in the community and the rejection at the county clerk’s office.

David Ermold broke down in the county’s judge-executive’s office, after he was denied a license to marry David Moore, his partner of 17 years. He felt angry and humiliated.

“I will say that people are cruel, they are cruel, these people are cruel,” Ermold said, tears welling in his eyes. “This is how gay people are treated in this country. This is what it’s like. This is how it feels.”

The county judge executive’s secretary, Lois L. Hawkins, started to cry with him. She declined to comment, except to say it broke her heart and there was nothing she could do to help them.

Supreme Court asked to overturn California ban on ex-gay therapy

The right-wing Liberty Counsel has filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Pickup v. Brown, its case challenging California’s law protecting LGBT youth with a ban on “ex-gay” therapy for minors.

Earlier this year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld the landmark law, which is serving as a model for other states seeking to protect minors from damaging, discredited and discriminatory treatments. After that ruling, the appeals court issued a stay in its decision pending further appeal to the Supreme Court. That means the law, which had been set to go into effect on Jan. 1, is on hold.

Liberty Counsel issued a statement saying it represent parents and children “receiving and benefiting from change counsel, four licensed mental health professionals who practice change counsel, the National Association for Research and Therapy on Homosexuality and the American Association for Christian Counselors.”

Mat Staver, founder of the Liberty Counsel, in the release claimed, “Change therapy bans are a flagrant violation of a client’s right to self-determination. This is an unprecedented government intrusion into personal healthcare and counseling choices. Driven by ideology and not science, this law banning change counseling will seriously harm children and their parents,” says Staver

However, numerous health organizations say “ex-gay” or “change” therapy, especially for young people, is harmful and potentially life-threatening.

The high court could consider the petition sometime before the end of the term in June.

Christian right holds homecoming weekend in D.C.

The Values Voter Summit that took place Oct. 11–13 was something of a homecoming for right-wing leaders.

For the progressives who gathered to protest, it was something of a fright fest.

“This event is put on by hate groups with really scary ideas about American values and no respect for equality and justice,” said Joshua Alcorn of Baltimore, who demonstrated outside the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 11, the first day of the three-day summit and the 11th day of the partial federal government shutdown.

“I would have hoped our elected officials would have had something better to do than to be here, stoking the fires,” said demonstrator Shawnee McMurphree of Washington.

The summit theme was “Standing for Faith, Family and Opportunity for All” and, in keeping with tradition, the event featured a straw poll for the next presidential election. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, won the poll with 42 percent of the vote. Ben Carson and Rick Santorum followed with 13 percent each.

Before the summit speeches began, the right-wing Liberty Counsel legal defense group hosted the Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition breakfast.

Opening day ceremonies featured Cruz and U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky. The first day also featured “The Future of Marriage” panel led by Tony Perkins, of the ultra-right Family Research Council, and Brian Brown, of the National Organization for Marriage.

Paul described a “war on Christianity” that U.S. foreign policy must address and Rubio said, “We can’t stop talking about the importance of our values and our culture. We can’t stop talking about them because the moral well-being of our people is directly linked to their economic well-being.”

Cruz told those gathered that the nation is on the edge of a cliff —— he was heckled during the speech, leading right-wing media to speculate operatives for President Barack Obama had infiltrated the event.

The Oct. 11 schedule did require some adjustment for speakers who did not attend, including U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who sent a video message explaining that as chair of the House budget committee “things are a little busy up here on Capitol Hill these days.”

In the message, he told conservative activists that he too is a “values voter” and what sets “us apart is our beliefs.” Ryan said those beliefs include rethinking “government’s role in our lives” and that includes ending the Affordable Care Act.

Many speakers, with the shutdown imposed and a deadline to act on the debt ceiling approaching, focused on money issues on the mainstage, but outside the spotlight there was plenty of focus on marriage, abortion and the other hot-button issues that drove the so-called “values voters” to D.C.

Throughout the event there were breakfast gatherings, worship sessions, banquets, luncheons, book-signings, workshops, receptions and speeches, including by U.S. Reps. Jim Bridenstine, Louie Gohmert, Jim Jordan and Steve Scalis, as well as Fox personalities Allen West, Mike Huckabee, Todd Starnes and others.

Program topics included “What is Marriage … Really?” “Getting America Back to Great,” “The Erosion of Religious Liberties in the Public Square,” “Responding to the Tough Questions on Marriage, Religious Liberty and More,” “The Hispanic Community: Messaging and Mobilizing,” “Values and Obamacare,” “Standing up to the Assaults on our Faith,” “Is it too Late to Reclaim America?” “The War on Football: Saving America’s Game” and “Challenging Tyranny.”

In the days before the summit, civil rights activists launched a campaign aimed at persuading scheduled speakers to skip the summit. FRC has a history of demonizing gays, portraying gays as sick, evil, incestuous, violent and perverted threats to the nation.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, Human Rights Campaign, NAACP, National Council of La Raza, GLAAD, People for the American Way Foundation and Faithful America all called on lawmakers to skip the summit.

“Elected officials shouldn’t lend the prestige of their office to hate groups that have a long history of telling incendiary lies about the LGBT community and spreading other forms of bigotry,” said a statement from the SPLC.

A letter signed by representatives from civil rights group that went to Ryan and others said, “Last year, RNC chairman Reince Priebus said that ‘people in this country, no matter straight or gay, deserve dignity and respect.’ The question before you today, therefore, is where the party of Lincoln stands in 2013 on vilifying the LGBT community. You can help answer that question by saying no to bigotry and declining the invitation to speak at the Values Voter Summit.”

U.S. evangelist faces trial for crimes against humanity

Two out of the five men in the running for the title of Bigot of the Year in the U.K. are evangelical exporters of hate from the United States – Pat Robertson and Scott Lively.

The aging Robertson, who most recently claimed on his Christian Broadcasting Network that San Francisco gays wear special rings to cut people and transmit HIV, seems suited for a lifetime “achievement” award in the category. Lively, meanwhile, is leading the pack of this year’s nominees representing “the most hateful spokespeople for the anti-gay movement,” according to Stonewall, the presenters of the award. Also to be presented at the seventh annual ceremony in London on Nov. 7 are awards for Hero of the Year and Politician of the Year.

“The Stonewall Awards are a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the achievements of so many individuals who’ve made a real difference,” said Laura Doughty, deputy chief executive director at the LGBT civil rights group. The group is marking a historic year that included passage of a marriage equality bill for England and Wales.

“Sadly,” she added, “the contrast between those who’ve made a positive difference and those who simply seek to demean and degrade gay people and their families has never been more stark. That’s why all five of our Bigot of the Year nominees deserve their places on the list.”

Lively was nominated for aggressively exporting homophobia around the globe.

Accused in the U.S. and abroad

Lively stands accused of crimes against humanity in a case that was filed in March 2012 in federal court in Massachusetts. It’s the first case of its kind, brought by the U.S.-based Center for Constitutional Rights under the Alien Tort Statute on behalf of Sexual Minorities of Uganda, a Uganda-based coalition of LGBT advocacy organizations

The complaint alleges that Lively’s actions over the past decade in collaboration with government and religious officials in Uganda led to increased violence, inspired the “Kill the Gays” bill and deprived LGBT Ugandans of fundamental human rights.

In his effort to inflame hatred against LGBT people, Lively has falsely claimed gays were partially responsible for the Holocaust and genocide in Rwanda. He’s authored two books that set forth a plan to repress the “gay movement,” which Lively has described as the “most dangerous social and political movement of our time,” according to the complaint. He visited Uganda in 2009, hosting a seminar on “exposing the homosexual agenda” and pressing parliamentarians, police officers, teachers, journalists and ministers to act.

Lively is represented by the Liberty Counsel, a Virginia-based Christian-right legal defense fund. In January, announcing the LC’s role in the case, Liberty Counsel founder Mathew Staver said, “What SMUG cavalierly labels as ‘crimes against humanity’ – the most heinous of all crimes – is actually nothing more than civil, peaceful, political discourse in the public square on a subject of great public concern.”

The defense’s first move was to ask the judge to dismiss the lawsuit by arguing that the court lacked jurisdiction and that the First Amendment protected Lively’s work.

Judge Michael Ponsor, however, denied motions for dismissal in August and affirmed CCR’s argument that the fundamental human rights of LGBT people are protected under international law. 

“Widespread, systematic persecution of LGBT people constitutes a crime against humanity that unquestionably violates international norms,” Ponsor wrote. “The history and current existence of discrimination against LGBT people is precisely what qualifies them as a distinct targeted group eligible for protection under international law. The fact that a group continues to be vulnerable to widespread, systematic persecution in some parts of the world simply cannot shield one who commits a crime against humanity from liability.”

Frank Mugisha, the director of SMUG, said the ruling was a victory for “human rights everywhere but most especially the LGBT Ugandans who are seeking accountability from those orchestrating our persecution.”

CCR attorney Pam Spees said the court recognized “the gravity of the danger faced by our clients as a result of Scott Lively’s actions. Lively’s single-minded campaign has worked to criminalize their very existence, strip away their fundamental rights and threaten their physical safety.”

The case against the evangelist is now in the discovery phase.

Lively remains undaunted. He maintains the case is an attempt to criminalize his religious views.

“Scott Lively can hide behind claims of religious freedom all he wants, but when religious opinions turn into institutional oppression and violence against minority groups, we are no longer talking about the First Amendment,” stated Evan Hurst, associate director of Truth Wins Out, a Vermont-based group founded to counter anti-gay propaganda and expose the ex-gay myth. “Spreading demonizing lies about LGBT people is not a tenet of any religion I’ve ever heard of, and it’s certainly not a feature of Christianity.”

From beggar to bully

Lively, in an autobiography on the website for Scott Lively Ministries, wrote, “On Feb. 1, 1986, I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ on my knees by myself in an alcohol treatment facility in Portland, Ore.”

He said he arrived in Portland after 16 years of addiction, “drifting around the United States, often homeless, sometimes sleeping under bridges and begging for spare change on street-corners.”

Lively had grown up in Shelburne Falls, Mass., where his childhood apparently came to an abrupt end when he was 16 years old. He watched his father, “in a state of extreme psychosis, engage in an armed standoff with the state police … over an incident involving my dropping out of school.”

The roamer settled in Portland, where he said Jesus, serving as his “higher power,” reunited him with his estranged wife. He said he “received my ministry when a pro-life activist showed me pictures of aborted babies,” and he was brought into the fold of the Oregon Citizens Alliance, the largest statewide Christian right group in the country, with Lon Mabon as the leader. 

No formal education

In his autobiography, Lively said within a few weeks of meeting Mabon in 1989 and “having no formal education or experience, I became the State Communications Director.”

In 1991, when the OCA shifted its focus to driving an anti-gay ballot measure, Lively also shifted his focus: “I knew very little about the issue, but over the next several years had my eyes opened to things very few Christians have ever seen or experienced. I realized that homosexuality was even more destructive to society than abortion.”

The evangelist, who resides today in Springfield, Mass., and may run for governor in the next election cycle, said he spent the next dozen years accumulating the “skills and credentials” he needed to become a “prominent leader in the now global pro-family movement.”

In 2006 and 2007, Lively toured extensively in Russia and in Eastern European countries, promoting anti-LGBT policies and, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, describing “the gay movement as the most dangerous political movement on earth.”

He recently praised Russian President Vladimir Putin’s signing of a national measure banning gay “propaganda.”

“As the United States and the United Kingdom morph slowly into a ‘gay’ version of the Soviet Union, an unlikely hero of family values has emerged: Russian President Vladimir Putin,” Lively wrote on his blog at scottlively.net. “In a stunning reversal of roles, the Russian Bear has become the defender of Christian civilization against the Cultural-Marxist American Eagle and British Lion.

“While America and Britain compete to see how fast they can turn their children into Sodomites, Russia has banned homosexual propaganda to youth. While the ‘mainstream’ American and British press publish only pro-‘gay’ puffery and propaganda, Russia’s Pravda has become a counter-balance to their lies.”

The evangelist has taken some credit for Russia’s national law, as well as similar measures enacted at regional levels. His blog post praising Putin closes with the statement: “During a 50-city speaking tour of the former Soviet Union in 2006 and 2007, and in his Letter to the Russian People, published in St. Petersburg at the close of the tour, Dr. Lively advocated for the criminalization of ‘gay’ propaganda to children, a policy which has since been adopted by the Russian government.”

TWO’s Hurst said, “We are now seeing the fruits of the work of Scott Lively and others like him in Uganda, Russia and other nations where American fundamentalists have been active, and it’s not pretty.”

But, he added, there’s hope that the case against Lively will expose his “sinister actions” as the “crimes against humanity that they are.”

Anti-gay evangelical in federal court, faces persecution complaint

A federal judge heard arguments Jan. 7 on whether to keep alive a case alleging that Massachusetts evangelical Scott Lively’s anti-gay efforts in Uganda constitute persecution under federal and international law.

Sexual Minorities Uganda is the plaintiff in the complaint filed by Center for Constitutional Rights, based in the United States.

Lively worked with Ugandan government officials and religious leaders on anti-LGBT policies and legislation, specifically the bill that proposed the execution of gays.

The complaint before the district court alleges that Lively sought to deprive LGBT people in Uganda of their fundamental human rights based on identity, which is the definition of persecution under international law and a crime against humanity.

U.S. law allows foreign citizens to sue U.S. citizens for crimes against humanity under the Alien Tort Statute.

A leader of Sexual Minorities Uganda, Pepe Julian Onziema, said on Jan. 7, “Coming face to face with the man who has caused us so much pain is important to me. We want him held accountable for the escalating homophobia and persecution in Uganda. This case is about making it clear to people who have exported their hate agenda to Uganda that their actions have a very real effect on us and they must stop.”

Lively has a reputation at home and abroad for anti-LGBT efforts. He is the author of “The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party” and “Seven Steps to Recruit-Proof Your Child.”

For more than a decade, he has traveled to Uganda, Latvia, Moldova and other countries to consult with political leaders on anti-gay efforts and legislation.

In the federal court case, the Liberty Counsel, the legal defense associated with Jerry Falwell’s right-wing Liberty University, is representing Lively.

The counsel wants the case dismissed because the First Amendment protects Lively’s work.

It’s this motion that the judge in Springfield, Mass., must decide before the civil trial can proceed.

Court blocks California law banning ‘ex-gay’ therapy

A federal appeals court on Friday put the brakes on a first-of-its-kind California law that bans therapy aimed at turning gay minors straight.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued an emergency order putting the law on hold until the court can hear full arguments on the measure’s constitutionality. The law was set to take effect Jan. 1.

Licensed counselors who practice so-called “reparative therapy” and two families who say their teenage sons have benefited from it sought the injunction after a lower court judge refused the request.

The law, which was passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown this fall, states that therapists and counselors who use “sexual orientation change efforts” on clients under 18 would be engaging in unprofessional conduct and subject to discipline by state licensing boards.

The appeals court’s order prevents the state from enforcing the law, SB1172, while a different three-judge panel considers if the measure violates the First Amendment rights of therapists and parents.

Liberty Counsel President Mathew Staver, whose Christian legal aide group is representing reparative therapy practitioners and recipients in a lawsuit seeking to overturn the law, applauded the court’s decision to grant his request to delay its implementation.

“This law is politically motivated to interfere with counselors and clients. Liberty Counsel is thankful that the 9th Circuit blocked the law from going into effect,” Staver said. “This law is an astounding overreach by the government into the realm of counseling and would have caused irreparable harm.”

Backers of the ban say the state is obligated to outlaw reparative therapy because the practice puts young people at risk and has been rejected by every mainstream mental health association. After signing SB1172, the governor called the therapies it would outlaw “quackery” that “have no basis in science or medicine.”

Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which helped fight for the law’s passage, said the measure’s supporters shouldn’t read too much into Friday’s order.

“It’s disappointing because there shouldn’t even be a temporary delay of this law, but this is completely irrelevant to the final outcome,” Minter said.

The brief order issued Friday did not explain the panel’s thinking. The 9th Circuit has requested briefs on the case’s broader constitutional issues but has not scheduled arguments.

“California was correct to outlaw this unsound and harmful practice, and the attorney general will vigorously defend this law,” said Lynda Gledhill, press secretary to Attorney General Kamala Harris.

Earlier this month, two federal trial judges in California arrived at opposite conclusions on whether the law violates the Constitution.

On Dec. 4, U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller refused to block the law after concluding that the plaintiffs represented by Staver were unlikely to prove the ban on “conversion” therapy unfairly tramples on their civil rights and should therefore be overturned.

The opponents argued the law would make them liable for discipline if they merely recommended the therapy to patients or discussed it with them. Mueller said they didn’t demonstrate they were likely to win, so she wouldn’t block the law.

Mueller’s decision came half a day after U.S. District Judge William Shubb handed down a somewhat competing ruling in a separate lawsuit filed by a psychiatrist, a licensed counselor and a former patient who is studying to practice gay conversion therapy.

Shubb said he found the First Amendment issues presented by the ban to be compelling. He ordered the state to temporarily exempt the three people named in the case before him.