Scott Lively: The Crusader

Lively made headlines after an incendiary visit to Uganda when he urged leaders to fight the ‘gay agenda.’ Soon after, a member of the country’s Parliament called for the execution of some homosexuals. Activists are now suing Lively for persecution. What’s next for the Springfield pastor? Exploring a run for governor, of course.

Scott Lively

Photos by Christopher Churchill

On the morning of January 7, nearly 200 people lined up outside the federal courthouse in Springfield, eager to watch the controversial anti-gay evangelical pastor Scott Lively squirm in front of a judge. The day was sunny and warm. As snow melted on the steps, LGBT advocates passed out fliers and held multi-colored cardboard signs above their heads that read, “Gay rights are human rights,” “Persecution is a crime,” and “Lively is deadly.” Off to the side, about 20 of Lively’s supporters huddled together.

A squat, 54-year-old barrel of a man with a salt-and-pepper beard, Lively had been summoned to court that morning for a preliminary hearing, after having been sued by a group of Ugandan activists for persecution, which international law defines as a crime against humanity. The group, Sexual Minorities Uganda, claims that as part of a decade-long campaign, Lively had conspired with Ugandan government officials and community leaders to deliberately persecute homosexuals in the country. The suit drew special attention to a high-profile visit that Lively had made to Uganda in 2009, which, it alleges, “ignited a cultural panic and atmosphere of terror that radically intensified the climate of hatred in which Lively’s goals of persecution could advance.” Lively was propelled into the international spotlight not long afterward, when a bill was introduced into the Ugandan Parliament that demanded execution as the punishment for some kinds of same-sex relations. “We must exterminate homosexuals,” one member of Parliament thundered at the time, “before they exterminate society.”

Inside the Springfield courthouse, it took more than an hour to herd everyone through security. It was a mob scene, comparable to a celebrity murder trial. The courtroom itself was not nearly large enough to hold the crush of visitors, so the authorities opened up two overflow courtrooms, where those not able to view the action in person could watch it on closed-circuit TVs. One security guard on duty that day told me he’d never seen as large a crowd at the courthouse.

Wearing a dark suit, Lively knifed his way through the crowd and into the courtroom with his attorneys. A protester shouted, “I am the person you want to kill. How does that make you feel?” Later, Lively told me that he’d slept well the night before. “The Bible predicts that Christians would sit in seats like this and have to face these kinds of things,” he said. “I’m not surprised, and I’m ready to do whatever the Lord has for me to do.”


Lively made his controversial trip to Uganda in March 2009, during which he hammered home a single idea to which he has devoted much of his life: that homosexuality is evil, dangerous, and against God’s will. Homosexuality was already illegal by the time of his visit, and in Kampala, the capital, he found a ready audience for his message. He says that he met at length there with leading government figures to discuss the issue; that he addressed it in newspaper interviews, two radio shows, and a one-hour live program on national television; and that he delivered talks about the “gay agenda” at churches, schools, and universities around Kampala. Homosexuals, he declared at one talk, are predators and pedophiles who hunt down children to turn them gay—and worse. “You can’t stop [them] from molesting children,” he said, “or stop them from having sex with animals.”

A YouTube video survives of Lively delivering one of his Kampala talks, a keynote address at an anti-gay conference held from March 5 to 7 at the upscale Hotel Triangle. He had been invited by the Family Life Network, a Ugandan organization led by the prominent pastor and community organizer Stephen Langa, who Sexual Minorities Uganda claims in its lawsuit has been a “co-conspirator” of Lively’s since 2002. Wearing dark slacks and a white shirt, Lively introduced himself to a crowd of religious leaders, government officials, police officers, parents, and teachers.

“My name is Scott Lively,” he began. “I have a brother and a sister who went into homosexuality…. I know about these things personally. After 20 years of observing this as my primary emphasis of my ministry…I know more about this than almost anyone in the world.” He then moved on to the meat of his presentation, spelling out the unsavory ways in which the gay movement in Uganda was dedicated to undermining society. Homosexuality, he argued, is a treatable disorder like alcoholism, and can be cured, but left unchecked it would destroy Ugandan life. The message visibly alarmed some in the crowd. “You could tell how afraid they were, that they needed to stop the gay agenda from happening,” says Reverend Kapya Kaoma, an Anglican priest and vocal critic of Lively’s who was in the audience that day.

Lively spent three days at the conference, and his reach during his trip was extraordinary. The evening of his arrival, he says, he met with more than 50 members of Parliament. He also claims to have spoken privately for 30 minutes with the country’s minister of ethics and integrity. In all, he estimates, he directly addressed about 10,000 people. And then there’s the much wider audience he reached with his media appearances. He was particularly proud of what he’d managed to accomplish at the Hotel Triangle conference. On March 17, while still in Uganda, he boasted online that someone in Kampala had told him that his campaign there had been “like a nuclear bomb against the ‘gay’ agenda,” and he went on to say that he prayed that this was true.

Changes undeniably did follow his visit. Newspapers printed hysterical headlines (“HANG THEM; THEY ARE AFTER OUR KIDS”) and began publishing names and photographs of people suspected of being gay. Stone-throwing mobs gathered on the streets, and suspects were harassed, beaten, and forced into hiding. Hostility to gays wasn’t new in Uganda, of course, but this was an escalation. Frank Mugisha, a gay man and plaintiff in the lawsuit against Lively, has said that before the conference homosexuals were “looked at as different,” but that “no one bothered them,” whereas afterward, he continued, “people were being reported to the police as homosexuals, were thrown out by their families, or thrown out by the church.”

In this rising climate of anger and fear, anti-gay agitators and concerned citizens began to call for stronger legal action against homosexuals. And the Parliament member David Bahati sponsored what’s now widely known as the “Kill the Gays” bill, which proposed the execution of homosexuals with HIV, those who’d had homosexual relations with minors or the disabled, and offenders convicted more than once of same-sex relations.

  • Richard Willmer

    I have myself conversed with Lively, and feel that he is a man with a very rigid mind and a narrow obsession. Perhaps his own rather ‘interesting’ personal history has contributed to his mindset. The Ugandan debacle has probably shaken him more than he would admit; perhaps it would do him good to admit this (at least to himself), and find a more realistic perspective on the complex matter of human sexuality.

  • Dana Pille

    This man was molested as a child. It’s really too bad he didn’t seek out the psychiatric help he so desperately needed. His life could have been so much more rewarding, for himself and those around him.

    • Richard Willmer

      It wouldn’t surprise me; it might well account for his particular perspective on human sexuality. (Of course, child sexual abuse is not about ‘sexuality’; rather it is about the abuse of power.)

  • john martin lutz

    Good job Scott!!!!!!!!!
    Keep going with the T R U T H!!!!!!!

    • Richard Willmer

      But the huge problem is that Lively seems to tell lies in order to discredit gay people. However ‘godly’ an aim might be, it can never be achieved by the Devil’s means (see Luke 4 : 5 – 8). (Mind you, I’m not at all sure that Lively’s ‘anti-gay aims’ are ‘godly’ – but that’s another point for possible discussion.)

      • thisoldspouse

        Please detail one lie that Lively has promoted.

        • Chapelo

          Oh there’s plenty, it’s just a matter of picking out which one. Couldn’t be bothered to find that out yourself, eh grandma?

  • taline nahigian


  • Frederick Wright

    he is a pure monster worthy of extermination.

    • Richard Willmer

      No. This is not something we can say, horrible though this man’s behaviour is. For one thing, if we say such things, we are stooping to his level. To respect his right to life and liberty is to teach him that he should respect others’ rights in this regard. We must respond to his behaviour with understanding, compassion, intelligence and integrity (and fruitful, clever and honest tactics!). And for starters: Tactic #1 – ensure that others understand the full implications of his actions.

    • Twisk

      Frederick Wright, you are saying exactly what you accuse Lively of saying against homosexuals (I even believe he less harsh then you, since he left the “monster” bit out). Are you worse than him?

  • indytchn0

    calling this man crusader only underlines the evilness of his beliefs and yours too.

  • Gregory Peterson

    As near as I can tell from the rhetoric, to the conservative Evangelicals, “homosexuality” must be the new “miscegenation.”

  • Soren456

    How do you “oppose” homosexuality? It makes no sense; it’s like opposing rain or blue eyes.

  • thisoldspouse

    Godspeed on your run for Guv, Scott. Donation on its way from TEXAS.

    • Chapelo

      There’s an old quote that applies here.

      “A fool (ie, YOU), and his money are soon parted.”

      You’re a moron.

  • Joseph

    Wow. Basket cases like Lively is the reason I stay away from religion. How can anyone with half a brain even consider his twisted ideas? It makes me lose faith in humanity. Why are these hatemongers even allowed to exist? I, at least once, thought religion was about love and inclusion. But I guess that Jesus guy had it all wrong yeah?

  • T hughes

    Lively is accountable for the deaths of human beings in Uganda and Russia. Regardless of his views he needs to see the damage he has created. We have the ability to reach out and care for each others, regardless of colour, sex, age or sexuality these are biological factors not a choice. But we also have the ability to act in an unloving inhuman way. This is the way of hate, discrimination and inciting hatred. I wonder which side Jesus would of been on?

  • mjmiddleton1953

    Whatever one agrees or disagrees with his message, Scott Lively is one brave man, committed to his beliefs, unshakable in his resolve. He is being bullied and most likely slandered by an extremely powerful and intensely hostile cultural elite who have the power to completely destroy him. While I don’t agree with everything he says, I have to admire him. We need more people who are willing to sacrifice their careers and reputation for the sake of moral principle. For sure we have enough politicians and leaders of the other kind. But what really strikes me here as baffling and sad is that while there is all this hubbub over Uganda (and one individual’s supposed influence on an entire nation on this issue), when it comes to other nations, like Saudi Arabia, where US Presidents have held hands with (and even bowed down to) its king who rules over a nation where public executions of homosexuals are commonplace, there is not a peep of condemnation from these very same groups who are calling for Lively’s blood. For those who really DO want to protect the lives of gay people, why not oppose those who are actually killing them intentionally?!