Wednesday, June 07, 2017

No Jurisdiction Under ATS Over Anti-Gay Pastor's Activity In Uganda

In Sexual Minorities Uganda v. Lively, (D MA, June 5, 2017), a Massachusetts federal district court dismissed a suit that had been brought under the Alien Tort Statute against Scott Lively, a pastor and anti-LGBT activist. The court said in part:
Defendant's positions on LGBTI people range from the ludicrous to the abhorrent....  He has tried to make gay people scapegoats for practically all of humanity's ills.... 
This crackpot bigotry could be brushed aside as pathetic, except for the terrible harm it can cause. The record in this case demonstrates that Defendant has worked with elements in Uganda who share some of his views to try to repress freedom of expression by LGBTI people in Uganda, deprive them of the protection of the law, and render their very existence illegal.... 
Plaintiff has filed this lawsuit under the Alien Tort Statute ("ATS"), 28 U.S.C. § 1350, seeking monetary damages and injunctive relief based on Defendant's crimes against humanity. Defendant now seeks summary judgment in his favor arguing that, on the facts of record, the ATS provides no jurisdiction over a claim for injuries -- however grievous -- occurring entirely in a foreign country such as Uganda. Because the court has concluded that Defendant's .jurisdictional argument is correct, the motion will be allowed.
Anyone reading this memorandum should make no mistake. The question before the court is not whether Defendant's actions in aiding and abetting efforts to demonize, intimidate, and injure LGBTI people in Uganda constitute violations of international law. They do. The much narrower and more technical question posed by Defendant's motion is whether the limited actions taken by Defendant on American soil in pursuit of his odious campaign are sufficient to give this court jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims. Since they are not sufficient, summary judgment is appropriate for this, and only this, reason. 
Liberty Counsel which represented Lively issued a press release on the decision describing Lively's activities as "sharing his biblical views on homosexuality during three visits to Uganda...."