Pastor wants judge’s “unnecessary and prejudicial language” thrown out

Judge Michael Ponsor used words like "ludicrous," "crackpot," and "abhorrent" in his memorandum

Pastor Scott Lively is seen here in a WWLP file image.

BOSTON (WWLP) – A Springfield pastor and former gubernatorial candidate is asking a federal appeals court to strike language used by a judge in a ruling that actually went in his favor.

Pastor Scott Lively wants the Boston-based First Circuit Court of Appeals to remove language used by Federal Judge Michael Ponsor in his June memorandum dismissing a suit brought against the pastor by the group Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). The group had tried to sue Lively under the Alien Tort Statute, which allows foreign nationals to sue U.S. citizens in American courts. Ponsor threw out the suit, saying that the law does not cover alleged injuries committed outside the United States.

The group had accused Lively of waging a campaign to persecute LGBT people in their country. The pastor, who runs Springfield-based Abiding Truth Ministries, had visited Uganda and spoken about LGBT issues. The country had passed a very stringent anti-LGBT law in 2014, an early draft of which called for the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality.” The penalty was later reduced to life imprisonment, and Lively had suggested a 20-year prison sentence instead.

In his memorandum, Ponsor remained highly critical of Lively, even while agreeing with his argument that the suit should be thrown out. The judge said the pastor’s views on gay people ranged from “the ludicrous to the abhorrent,” and said that Lively was advancing “crackpot bigotry.” Other terms used by the judge included “pathetic” and “abhorrent.” Ponsor also wrote that Lively’s “actions in aiding and abetting efforts to demonize, intimidate, and injure LGBTI people in Uganda” constituted violations of international law.

The Liberty Counsel, a conservative legal group that has represented Lively, filed a brief Tuesday asking the appeals court to toss out Ponsor’s “unnecessary and prejudicial language.”

“Today, we defend Pastor Scott Lively’s name in the Court of Appeals and work to remedy Judge Ponsor’s shameful diatribe against Lively’s Christian values and beliefs,” Liberty Counsel Vice President Horatio Mihet said in a news release sent to 22News. “Once Judge Ponsor concluded that he lacked jurisdiction over SMUG’s preposterous lawsuit, the only thing left to do was dismiss it. However, instead he chose to include an unnecessary tirade of words against the pastor.”

Lively was a candidate for governor of Massachusetts in the 2014 election, coming in fourth place in a field of five, and securing about 1% of the vote.

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