Ask any LGBT rights activist to name the one person that they would pick as the community’s arch-nemesis, and the likely answer would be Scott Lively, a Springfield, Mass., evangelical pastor and part-time coffeehouse barista.
Lively, who runs Abiding Truth Ministries, a church dedicated to combating “the homosexual agenda,” and who also operates the Holy Grounds Coffee House in Springfield, has dedicated his career and life to combating what he calls the “evil Satan inspired homosexual agenda.”
He actively lectures on the “The Global Threat of Homosexuality” as he seeks to make clear to his audiences that “homosexuality is not a sin just like any other sin, but rather a warning sign that our society is on the verge of collapse.”
For years, Lively has traveled extensively across the United States, advocating against what he labels “homosexual special rights” and declaring that there are biblical imperatives to stopping marriage equality, anti-gay discrimination legislation, and efforts to prevent bullying of gay youth — all of which have earned him a spot on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Hate Group” watch list.
Lively’s efforts haven’t solely concentrated on his domestic campaigns either. His anti-gay ministry has taken him overseas to the former countries of the old Soviet Union along with Sub-Saharan Africa.
Lively’s anti-gay rhetoric landed him in federal court last year in a lawsuit brought by Ugandan LGBT activists who have charged that his message has brought death and despair to LGBT people in that country along with having influenced Ugandan lawmakers – backed by influential Ugandan churches – to introduce a pending draconian law that would provide a death sentence for “repeat offenses of homosexual behavior.”
Last month the U.S. District Court Judge hearing the case ruled that the suit alleging Lively’s “crimes against humanity” had merit and could proceed.
“Yes, I think I influenced the Russian law,” Lively told NBC News, referring to the bill banning the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors,” signed into law in June by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In a personal blog post last month, Lively lauded President Putin for signing the anti-gay measure into law, calling him “the defender of Christian civilization.”
While some activists including LGBT friendly Christian groups dismiss him as a zealous crackpot and an annoyance, the director of LGBT advocacy for Human Rights Watch, Boris Dittrich says that Lively may have indeed helped shape Russia’s current attitudes towards its LGBT community.
When Lively visited Russia in 2006 and again in 2007, he met with the very lawmakers who later passed the anti-gay “homosexual propaganda” laws, which were enacted in more than a half-dozen Russian regions (including St. Petersburg) before Putin signed the bill into national law.
In Moldova in 2011, according to Human Rights Watch, he helped several cities declare themselves “gay-free zones” and organized an “emergency” campaign to block a law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
In Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Ukraine and Belarus he met with politicians and church leaders, fostering talk of new curbs on LGBTQ equality rights. Lively freely admits that his goal is to block “the open expression of homosexuality,” keep discrimination legal and make pro-gay advocacy a crime.
In his interview with NBC, Lively proffers his beliefs about gay people:
“They’re dangerous predators, even killers. And they caught this gay “disorder” through “an evil game of tag,” a chain of abuse in which gays recruit kids into sodomy just as they were once recruited. In this way homosexuality spreads like “a social cancer,” he claims, until nothing remains of the Christian world.
“There is a war that is going on in the world. There is a war that is waging across the entire face of the globe. It’s been waging in the United States for decades, and it’s been waging in Europe for decades. It’s a war between Christians and homosexuals.”
NBC News notes: “And yet where Lively’s message goes, violence seems to follow,” pointing out that in Oregon in 1992, a same-sex couple died when their house was firebombed during a Oregon Citizens Alliance campaign [Lively was the Executive Director at the time], then the largest anti-gay political group in America.
In Sacramento, Calif., in 2007 a gay man was called a “faggot” and beaten to death by a stranger in a park. Then in Uganda in 2011, the country’s first out gay man was bludgeoned to death.
“And right now in Russia and in the former Soviet states, there’s been a surge in homophobic vigilantism, including a torrent of shaming videos, some depicting gay teens being tortured by skinheads,” NBC News writes. “Lively has not been linked to any of these crimes but we asked: Couldn’t his talk of predatory gays, ’good and evil,’ and ’war’ have played a role?”
Lively sees his work as advocacy in the public interest, no different from campaigning against drunk drivers.
Others however disagree strongly such as Mark Potok, the Director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence project; “Words have consequences,” he said.
But Lively offers no remorse and an unapologetic viewpoint — as far as he is concerned, he quite literally is “on a mission from God.”
The problem for the LGBT community is that his “take no prisoners” attitude is creating chaos that, in some cases, is lethal.