A conservative pastor with a long history of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric has obtained the necessary support to challenge Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker in the Republican primary for governor.
Scott Lively, a Springfield-based pastor who runs Abiding Truth Ministries, received 28% of the vote of nearly 2,400 delegates at the GOP state convention in Worcester over the weekend — significantly more than the 15% needed to qualify for the primary ballot.
GOP officials, and Baker supporters, had hoped to avoid a primary, given Baker’s crossover appeal to Democrats and independents in the general election. As governor, Baker has amassed a pro-LGBTQ record, even signing a law providing nondiscrimination protections in public accommodations. Interestingly, that law is now being challenged at the ballot box, and Baker has promised to defend it on the campaign trail.
When asked about Lively’s qualifying for the ballot, Baker told the Springfield, Mass.-based newspaper The Republican: “I’m more interested in the 70 percent of the delegates who supported my message and supported our administration.”
Asked about Lively’s attacks on him as insufficiently conservative and insufficiently supportive of President Trump, as well as his more controversial statements on hot-button social issues, Baker said, “Look, there’s no place and no point in public life, in any life, for a lot of the things Scott Lively says and believes.”
He also declined to discuss why Lively garnered more than one-quarter of the delegates in attendance at the party’s convention.
“Look, I can’t get into the minds of people who made decisions to support us or support anybody else,” Baker said. “But I can tell you that Scott Lively, a lot of what he says and a lot of what he believes doesn’t belong in public discourse.”
For LGBTQ Massachusetts residents, Lively’s candidacy is particularly concerning, given his past anti-LGBTQ statements or political positions. On his campaign website, Lively says that he supports the traditional definition of marriage, writing: “The natural family of a man and woman united in life-long marriage for mutual love and support and the bearing and nurturing of children — through birth or adoption — is the self-evident foundation of all civilization.
“I believe the primacy of the natural family must be preserved and protected in the mainstream of society, with tolerance for those who choose to live discretely outside the mainstream,” adds Lively.
He also appears to link political corruption to sexual immorality, writing: ” All corruption is rooted in the selfishness of people who put their personal lust for money, sex or power ahead of the best interests of others. The longer that corruption goes unchallenged, the deeper and wider it spreads through a society — like cancer — and the more harm it causes.”
Lively made headlines a few years ago for his involvement with a network of right-wing pastors that encouraged governments abroad, most notably, the government of Uganda, to institute tougher penalties for those convicted of homosexual behavior, which is criminalized in the country. He told Ugandan lawmakers that gays were responsible for carrying out the Holocaust — a claim he first made in his 1995 book The Pink Swastika — and the Rwandan genocide, and characterized LGBTQ people as rapists and pedophiles.
In response to lobbying from Lively and other anti-gay pastors, Ugandan lawmakers passed what critics called the “Kill the Gays” bill, which called for harsher penalties, up to and including the death penalty, for LGBTQ people. The law was eventually struck down as unconstitutional.
Sexual Minorities Uganda, a group of LGBTQ Ugandans, eventually sued Lively, accusing him of being complicit in “crimes against humanity” for pushing lawmakers to pass the “Kill the Gays” bill.
Although the lawsuit was eventually dismissed — not on the merits, but based on jurisdictional issues — U.S. District Court Judge Michael Ponsor found that the group likely could have made a compelling argument that Lively had played a role in pushing the anti-LGBTQ law. Even as he was throwing out the case, Ponsor made comments condemning Lively’s “crackpot bigotry” and accusing the pastor of aiding and abetting “a vicious and frightening campaign of repression against LGBTI persons in Uganda.”
Beyond his work in Uganda, Lively has also claimed credit for Russia’s 2013 law banning “propaganda for non-traditional sexual relations among minors.” Russian authorities have since used the law to crack down on LGBTQ gatherings and to arrest activists. Under the law, anyone who speaks positively about homosexuality — or even neutrally — can potentially be punished for spreading pro-LGBTQ propaganda.
Following Trump’s election, Lively said he hoped to see Trump push for laws similar to those in Uganda and Russia that would criminalize homosexual behavior, or positive portrayals of homosexuality or transgenderism, in the United States.
According to Boston Magazine, Lively wrote on his blog that an explosion under a Springfield strip club, which injured 18 people, was a form of divine intervention. He also said he would pray “for the further cleansing of Springfield.”
“I believe this was the hand of God at work in answer to our prayers,” he wrote. “We are giving Him all the glory and praise for this occurrence, since it is only by His power that any of our prayers can have any effect. We also thank God that no one was seriously injured in this blast, though it was enormous.”
He then offered a prayer in which he asked God to “destroy the works of Satan in this city and ask you demolish them in such a way that it is clearly by your hand alone and not the works of men, saving the people but destroying the institutions that have set themselves against your truth.”
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