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Twenty Years of Hate Speech: How Evangelical Pastor Scott Lively Fueled Uganda’s New Antigay Law

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Protesters at 2014 demonstrations at the Ugandan diplomatic mission in London.
Protesters at 2014 demonstrations at the Ugandan diplomatic mission in London.

by David-Elijah Nahmod
Additional reporting by Megan Smith

On March 10, Mother Jones magazine reporter Mariah Blake wrote a comprehensive piece on the actions of Scott Lively, an American pastor with a long history of inflaming antigay hate. Lively, Blake reports, has been visiting Uganda since 2002, making speeches specifically designed to stir up antigay sentiments. Many activists credit Lively as one of the main inspirations for Uganda’s harsh law enacted earlier this year that “punishes same-sex intimacy with penalties that can include life in prison,” according to a 2014 report on Lively released by the Human Rights Campaign.

Originally from Massachusetts, Lively was an alcoholic, drug addict, and a drifter, before he “found God” and embraced evangelical Protestantism in 1986, the HRC report stated. Although claiming to have a gay brother and sister, Lively has been preaching his hatred for the LGBT community nonstop since the early 1990s. He has called being gay “a personality disorder,” among other horrendous things. “I have a brother and sister that went into homosexuality,” Lively said during a visit to Uganda in 2009. “I had another sister that wasn’t able to enter into marriage until she was in her 40s because of the pain of the family life that we had. I know about these things personally.”

Lively, who embarked on a 50-city tour of the former Soviet Union from 2006 until 2007, is also a strong supporter of antigay Russian president Vladimir Putin, according to the HRC report. The evangelical pastor rejoiced following the recent passage of Russia’s anti-LGBT “gay propaganda” law, even taking personal credit for the legislation’s initial proposal. “By taking these steps in the face of intense criticism and hostility by some Western governments and NGOs, the Russians have demonstrated the high value that they place on their children and the natural family model of society,” Lively said in an interview with The Washington Blade. “We believe that God will bless the Russian people for their faith and courage.”

Perhaps one of Lively’s most outlandish and disturbing claims is that gays are the inventors of Nazism and the guiding force behind many Nazi atrocities, a concept he details in his book The Pink Swastika, publised in 1995. The book has been widely condemned for being false. In fact, LGBT people were targeted by the Third Reich along with Jews. Blake’s story at the Mother Jones website includes disturbing videos in which Lively speaks of “predatory” gays who prey on children in order to “recruit” them. According to Lively, these kids then end up “identifying as homosexual.”

In another video posted at motherjones.com, Lively lists the “causes of homosexuality.” He claims that the primary “cause” is sexual abuse, which he called “an evil game of tag.” According to Lively, he has “never known a lesbian who wasn’t molested as a child,” and that lesbians were molesting other women. Lively has attempted to spread these same beliefs to Latvia, Hungary, Moldova, and many other countries, according to the HRC report.

Lively made speeches like these in Uganda to ordinary citizens and to members of parliaments, presenting himself as an expert on the topic of LGBT issues. Blake’s story included a video in which a young Ugandan man, referring to Lively as “a man of God,” said that he had never heard of the gay movement prior to Lively’s talks. “We need to attack the gay movement with force,” he said. “Dr. Scott told us that these people have all the resources they need, so it’s easy for them to spread their evil.”

Last month, Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni signed the country’s antigay law that prescribes a seven-year jail term for funding or “sponsoring” homosexuality. Although Lively says that it’s “insulting” to claim that he is responsible for the passage of this law, many observers believe that the situation in Uganda would not have become so dire if Lively had not stirred up so much antigay sentiment. “It’s a very insulting argument, that somehow an American evangelical pastor is so powerful that I’ve overwhelmed the intelligence of an entire government and turned them out to do my will,” Lively said. “The Ugandans knew what they wanted to hear.”

Lively is currently facing a lawsuit brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of the LGBT rights organization, Sexual Minorities Uganda, and will have to stand trial for crimes against humanity, according to the HRC report. However, no trial date has been set and the next pretrial conference is not scheduled until 2015—clearing the way for Lively to continue his work until then.

Harry Belafonte, the Grammy-winning singer/actor, and Dr. Mathilde Krim, a co-founder of the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AMFAR), have issued a joint statement calling upon the U.S. to “re-examine our relationship with all countries receiving foreign aid and restructure our relationship with those that criminalize homosexuality.” Belafonte and Krim expressed concern that “this cancerous bigotry will spread to other countries wishing to scapegoat an easily targeted minority.”

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David-Elijah Nahmod

David-Elijah Nahmod is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidElijahN.
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