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.

Anti-Gay March Uganda

An anti-gay march in Uganda.

Lively, who refers to himself as the “father of the Ugandan homosexual movement,” insists he never advocated for the death penalty during his visit, and that he argued only for “therapy.” But it’s hard to deny that some of the bill’s language echoed his own. In a draft of its preamble, for example, the bill stated that children are the “most vulnerable to recruitment into the homosexual lifestyle,” and elsewhere it asserted that “homosexuality has a variety of negative consequences, including higher incidences of violence, sexually transmitted diseases, and use of drugs.”

Reverend Kaoma sees a direct connection between Lively and the bill. “I remember a teacher saying, ‘After seeing Dr. Lively, we realized our laws are very weak.’ Lively robbed LGBT people of their humanity and turned them into devils. He provided the rationale for stiffer penalties and moved the [homosexual issue] from a religious battle between churches to a political battle and policy issue. And by making it a political issue, he took it to the next level.”

Leaders around the world reacted with disgust, and the international outcry slowed consideration of the bill, which has yet to be passed. It has recently been reinstated on the Parliamentary agenda, however, as an item of importance. Rightly or wrongly, Lively himself quickly became associated with the bill in world opinion after it was introduced, and in the years since, he’s been the subject of negative coverage in such outlets as the New York Times, the New Yorker, ABC News, National Public Radio, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

The Daily Show hit Lively the hardest, airing a segment in 2010 that mercilessly portrayed him as a fool. Discussing his sense that he was on a mission from God, Lively told the Daily Show reporter Jason Jones, “I wish I had gotten a different assignment, actually.”

“What would that assignment be?” Jones asked.

“Well, I would have loved to have been just hanging out on the beach someplace, but instead I got stuck with dealing with homosexual Nazis.”

“Yes,” Jones went on to say in a voice-over, while the camera showed Lively sitting on a park bench. “It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it. Actually, wait. No, no one has to do it.”

“They hammered me,” Lively recalls.

LGBT and civil rights leaders, too, have focused their attentions on Lively. “He supports practices and laws that endanger people’s lives,” says Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, the president and dean of the Episcopal Divinity School, in Cambridge, herself openly lesbian. Nobody feels more strongly than the Ugandan activists who have filed suit against Lively, among them Pepe Julian Onziema. Despite the fact that the proposed law has yet to pass, Onziema argues that real damage has already been done, in the form of “escalating homophobia and persecution in Uganda.”

After his Uganda trip, Lively returned to Springfield, where he’d moved from California in 2008 as part of a mission to “re-Christianize” the city. Eager for some time away from the spotlight, he turned his attention to running the Holy Grounds Coffee Shop, which he and his wife opened in 2010. For a time, he devoted himself to serving the city’s poor and homeless.


In moving to Massachusetts, Lively was coming home. He grew up in the town of Shelburne Falls, about an hour from Springfield. He had a difficult childhood there: As a teen, he got into trouble with the law and developed drug and alcohol addictions. After high school, he left home, drifted across the country for a couple of years, and ended up in Oregon, where he tried repeatedly to cure himself of his addictions. But nothing, not even Alcoholics Anonymous, seemed to work—until one day in 1986 when, in a moment of despair, he surrendered himself to God, became an evangelical, and was saved. He says he hasn’t had the desire to drink or do drugs since. Political activism has become his addiction.

In 1989, Lively joined the Oregon Citizens Alliance (OCA), an anti-abortion and anti-homosexuality political organization founded by radical right-wing Christians. He quickly ascended to the role of communications director, writing op-ed pieces, holding press conferences, and debating politicians, and soon became a force in local politics. His biggest success came in 1992, in the town of Springfield, a suburb of Eugene, when an anti-gay charter amendment he had promoted passed 54 percent to 46 percent. The measure made it illegal for the city to “promote, encourage, or facilitate homosexuality,” and was the first anti-gay law ever passed in the United States—although the state passed a law the next year that prevented all anti-gay ordinances from being enforced.

After the victory in Springfield, Lively and the OCA focused on passing an amendment known as Measure 9 to the state constitution. Similar to the law that had passed in Springfield, it would have prohibited Oregon from using state money or property to “promote, encourage, or facilitate homosexuality,” and declared homosexuality to be “abnormal, wrong, unnatural, and perverse.” During that effort, Lively alleged that being gay was a “voluntary lifestyle based on sodomy,” and that the most likely cause of homosexuality was child molestation by other gays. The measure eventually failed, but only by a thin margin. Lively had proved himself to be an activist who could get his message out and translate it into votes. “Put before an audience receptive to fear,” says Tarso Ramos, who worked to defeat Measure 9, “Lively can have a devastating effect. He was successful in getting a high percentage of the vote, and it was too close for comfort. He’s not a statesman. He’s not a diplomat. He’s not the master of a subtle turn of phrase. He’s a bomb thrower.”

During the campaign, Lively’s opponents often called him a hate monger and a Nazi. Upset with that latter characterization, Lively began researching the history of the Nazi party—and concluded that it had been founded by a core group of homosexuals who had gone on to help perpetrate the Holocaust. He wrote an op-ed on the subject in a local newspaper, and much to his delight, he recalls, it “touched a nerve,” which, he says, “was really cool to see.”

  • 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?!