Lawsuit: Springfield pastor runs anti-gay effort in Uganda

A large group of protesters took to the streets of Springfield Wednesday to bring attention to a lawsuit against local evangelical minister Scott Lively. They say his anti-gay message has led to persecution and even killings of gay people in Uganda and other countries.

The New York City-based Center for Constitutional Rights is filing a suit against Lively in federal court in Springfield for allegedly persecuting sexual minorities in Uganda. The Center has brought the case under a statute that allows non-citizens to file actions in U.S. courts for violations of international law.

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Lively is president of Abiding Truth Ministries and owns a coffee shop in Springfield called “Holy Grounds.” He’s made national news for calling homosexuality a behavioral choice – and for a visit in 2009 to Uganda, where he met with legislators when they were considering a bill to provide a death penalty for some same-sex activity, but he denies that he has encouraged violence against gay people. But the Center for Constitutional Rights says he has waged a “decade-long campaign” overseas – in Uganda and other countries – to persecute people on the basis of their gender identity and sexual orientation. Pam Spees, an attorney for the Center, says Lively is spreading a dangerous message that gay people are sexual predators who target children.

“He works extensively with people in other countries to steer and consult their political processes in order to enact legislation criminalizing even advocacy, so you would just silence sexual minorities altogether.”

Lively has said he is focused on rehabilitation of gay peoplebut is not in favor of the death penalty or criminal sanctions for gay people in Uganda. Lively declined to comment for this story.