In my younger days when I watched tennis played at Wimbledon, the outstanding woman player was Margaret Court, and one I admired. According to Wikipedia: “Margaret Court … is a retired Australian tennis player and former world No. 1. She is currently a Christian minister in Perth, Western Australia. In tennis, she amassed more major titles than any other player in history”.
A tennis stadium has been named after her but given Court’s (according to another tennis great, Martina Navratilova, in an open letter she wrote) bigoted and homophobic views, she is calling for the stadium to be renamed to something more appropriate and reflective of the games commitment to embracing ideals of equality, diversity and inclusion, which Court by demonizing the LBGT community is seen to oppose. I am not sure what Court’s response has been to the letter, but prior to that she was quite vociferous in her rejection of same sex marriage and in her objection to the promotion of an LBGT agenda, in line with her Christian beliefs. In an article by Pink News, titled: “Tennis legend Margaret Court: a militant gay conspiracy is out to get me”, more of the issues and accusations against her are brought into the open.
In the light of this hiatus, my ears pricked up when today’s Radio Four “Thought for the Day” speaker, Mona Siddiqui, a professor in Islamic Studies, sought to address this very issue. Siddique was quick to recognize that “equality, diversity and inclusion” are the watchwords of the present age and is what has transformed society. She then asks the question: what if ones ideas on such matters do not resonate with the notion of human rights for all and in doing so recognizes the conflict between beliefs and such matters and how opinions can quickly lead to polarization. She also tackles the thorny matter of holding to an opinion and expressing it is a way that is seen to be condemning of those who don’t share those opinions. I have to admit, I was looking for a hopeful conclusion and was disappointed other that her quoting what is for her an important Islamic tenet – that justice for all is something we need to seek.
I have in the past written on several occasions concerning LBGT issues, precisely because I have seen what happens when the concerns of the LBGT community is run roughshod by the Christians, and vice versa. I have no simple solution, and while Margaret Court may have been more forthright in expressing her views that I might have been, I believe her right to do so as a Christian pastor should be respected. She remains in my eyes (probably) the greatest woman tennis player ever, and has earned the right for a prestigious tennis playing arena to be named after her. To rename the stadium would in my view be a mistake.