Scott Lively Assumes the Mantle: ’America’s Biggest Homophobe’
Last month brought the death of the leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, Fred Phelps, who infamously coined the phrase ’God Hates Fags’ and was considered by many to be ’the most homophobic man in America.’
But that doesn’t mean there’s not someone eagerly waiting to take his place. And his predecessor may be even more of a problem than he was.
Meet Scott Lively.
"He is certainly a contender for the title that Fred Phelps once famously held," said Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center. "He is a ranting, screaming homophobe, and has been for many years. He engages in all of the worst lies about gay people."
But Lively certainly doesn’t look or sound like the man Potok describes.
Slightly overweight and sporting a full, grey beard, he could be your gentle, kind, local pastor - or your best friend’s father. His demeanor and voice can almost be calming. He’s easy to listen to.
And unlike Phelps who was prone to fits of anger and known for his overuse of the word "fag," Lively is calm and collected - like a professor giving a lecture.
But those lectures are filled with nothing more than anti-gay propaganda.
"[Lively] is the author of the some of the most vile and completely false accusations against LGBT people in this country," Potok said. "For anyone to say that gay men were responsible for the Holocaust is beyond ludicrous. He has no respect for facts, history or people."
Those claims Potok is referring to come from Lively’s book "The Pink Swastika," where he makes the claim gay men were to blame for the Holocaust.
"While we cannot say that homosexuals caused the Holocaust, we must not ignore their central role in Nazism," Lively writes in the book. "To the myth of the ’pink triangle’ - the notion that all homosexuals in Nazi Germany were persecuted - we must respond with the reality of the ’pink swastika.’"
Lively lives in Springfield, Mass. and is the founder of Abiding Truth Ministries and Redemption Gate Mission Society. ATM’s poorly designed website is populated with links to right wing Christian news stories, anti-gay books and other anti-gay propaganda.
One such book featured is Lively’s manual "Seven Steps To Recruit-Proof Your Child," which, according to its description, is "A concise, practical guidebook for parents who wish to protect their children from pro-homosexual indoctrination and the possibility of recruitment into the homosexual lifestyle."
While Lively’s claims are outrageous and few in America take him seriously, it’s his globetrotting adventures that worry gay rights activists. In the past few years he’s traveled to Africa and Eastern Europe spreading his falsehoods and hate in countries where gay rights movements are in their infancy.
"Scott Lively is a fascist who has dedicated his life to destroying the lives of LGBT people across the world," said Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out.
"While he has been largely discredited in the United States and is regarded as a pathological individual, his propaganda resonates overseas in countries with uneducated people who take his lies as the gospel."
He traveled to the African nation of Uganda in 2009 to attend an anti-gay conference where he presented his views on homosexuality. Some believe that presentation played a key role in the country’s now-infamous "Kill the Gays" bill.
"Now he’s running around the world spreading his poison in any country that will allow him," Potok said. "He’s trying to get gay sex outlawed, and doesn’t mind if the death penalty is included in those laws."
And that’s what Besen says makes him far more dangerous than Phelps ever was.
"Because of his international reach he must be taken seriously and his loony ideas can’t be easily dismissed. It is my view that Lively should be in prison for promoting ’eliminationism’ and inciting crimes against humanity," Besen said. "He is far more diabolical and dangerous than Fred Phelps."
It was easy to see why Phelps was universally condemned and despised and arguably the most homophobic man in America. His funeral protests shocked even conservatives and other traditional anti-gay folks. But it wasn’t until he and his church protested the funeral of Matthew Shepard that he became a household name.
Ironically, to get his point across he used drama, flamboyancy and shock value. In the end, though, most commentators agree that Phelps actually helped the gay rights movement by forcing people to speak out against such outrageous behavior and condemn the ’God Hates Fags’ campaign. It spurred several counter movements such as "Angel Action," in which groups of people dress as angels with giant wings that shield families from protests, and ’God Loves Poetry,’ an art installation that featured press releases from the church with most of the text blacked out, leaving affirming poems and messages.
In many ways Phelps brought the LGBT community together, while also forcing the straight community to pay attention to his antics and in turn condemn them.
When it came to public policy, though, Phelps was never a player. He preferred theatrics to get his point across. When his funeral protests lost their desired effect and people stopped paying attention, he switched tactics by protesting the funerals of American soldiers. But, like most of Phelps’ stunts, it had the opposite effect, with even the staunchest conservatives coming out against his church’s tactics.
As for Lively, since at least 2007 he’s been working behind the scenes to spur the anti-gay forces overseas -- not with pickets and protests, but with policy, including Uganda’s "Kill the Gays" bill. That bill originally included the death penalty, but after international pressure, a new bill was drafted that dropped the maximum penalty to life in prison and was signed into law this past February.