Attorneys representing a Christian minister are asking an appeals court to rebuke the “defamatory statements” a federal judge unleashed when he found that federal law prevented him from continuing a damage lawsuit by homosexual activists in Uganda.
As WND reported Tuesday, Judge Michael Ponsor issued an order granting American pastor Scott Lively a summary judgment in a lawsuit brought by a group called Sexual Minorities Uganda, also known as SMUG.
SMUG had complained his declaration of the biblical perspective of homosexuality and his visits to Uganda caused them damage. They sued under the Alien Torts Statute, which the Supreme Court has said cannot be used for such claims.
But the federal judge, known for his homosexual-rights advocacy, unleashed a torrent of hateful rhetoric against Lively anyway.
Ponsor described Lively’s beliefs regarding homosexuality as “vicious and frightening,” and he said the pastor’s statements ranged from “the ludicrous to the abhorrent.”
He quoted Lively’s comments exposing the homosexuality in the Nazi movement, and he charged Lively with trying “to make gay people scapegoats for practically all of humanity’s ills.”
A WND call to the judge’s office requesting comment did not generate a response.
The judge ranted for pages, concluding finally he would “allow” the case to end because his court had no jurisdiction over claims by SMUG.
He called Lively’s perspective “bizarre” and “chilling.”
Now lawyers with Liberty Counsel are responding to Ponsor’s vicious attack on Christian beliefs.
The team said Thursday it had filed a notice of appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit of Ponsor’s inflammatory language.
“Judge Ponsor should have dismissed the case in 2013, when asked to do so following the Supreme Court opinion,” the team said in a statement. “Instead, he forced Lively to needlessly endure four more years of intense litigation and discovery by the army of lawyers working for the Center for Constitutional Rights, an organization that has received funding from George Soros.”
The lawyers said Ponsor “had no choice but to follow clear U.S. Supreme Court precedent when he ruled this week the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case.”
“That should have been the end of the matter. But, Judge Ponsor, known for his support of the LGBT agenda, went on to appease the LGBT activists by making unlawful ‘findings,’ including that Pastor Lively violated international law of ‘crimes against humanity.’”
Horatio Mihet, Liberty Counsel’s chief litigation counsel, said Ponsor’s “vitriolic order is clearly unlawful.”
“Once Judge Ponsor concluded that he lacked jurisdiction over SMUG’s preposterous lawsuit, the only thing left to do was dismiss it,” Mihet said. “The Supreme Court, and many federal appellate courts, have repeatedly rebuked judges who inject unnecessary and prejudicial ‘findings’ in cases where they lack jurisdiction. We will defend Pastor’s Lively’s name in the Court of Appeals and work to remedy this injustice.”
Mat Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel, said it is “improper for a judge who clearly lacks jurisdiction to hear a case to make legal findings unrelated to the disposition of the case.”
“When a court lacks jurisdiction, its only job is to acknowledge that fact and end the case,” he said. “Judge Ponsor allowed his support for the LGBT agenda to enter an opinion and make prejudicial findings laced with defamatory statements that are both illegal and unbecoming. The statements are so far outside the norm that we have filed an appeal to ask that these prejudicial and unnecessary statements be stricken. Judges may hold personal opinions like anyone else, but they should restrain themselves from lacing court rulings with them, especially when they admit they lack jurisdiction to hear the case.”
Liberty Counsel noted Ponsor’s ruling was littered with “unbecoming epithets” such as “crackpot bigot,” “pathetic,” “ludicrous,” “abhorrent” and numerous others.”
Ponsor “egregiously” even “purported to conclude, without even a pretense of legal or factual analysis, that Lively’s Christian beliefs and pro-family activism violated ‘international law’ and that Lively’s peaceful speaking on homosexuality in Uganda somehow ‘aided and abetted’ crimes supposedly committed by people Lively has never even spoken to or met.”
WND’s original report on the judge’s rant noted his diatribe followed his statement he would “allow” the case’s dismissal.
WND report last year when SMUG’s activists demanded, in a court motion, the right to silence Lively.
“SMUG unequivocally seeks a speech-chilling injunction against anything Lively might say which SMUG finds offensive, to hold over Lively like a club,” the legal team explained at the time.
The lawyers pointed that that SMUG could not “(A) identify any specific actions of Defendant Scott Lively (‘Lively’) in the U.S. that had a direct causal link to any alleged injury suffered by SMUG in Uganda; and (B) identify any specific injunctive relief that this court could even consider that would not violate the First Amendment.”
SMUG had demanded, at that time, a prohibition on Lively speaking, making his books available, meeting with groups and discussing his beliefs with other lawyers in Uganda.