Tennis champion Margaret Court has sparked more controversy, telling a Perth church congregation that LGBT material in schools is ‘of the devil’.
The sporting icon’s Sunday sermon has put tennis bosses in a difficult position ahead of next month’s Australian Open.
The governing body ment after the governing body invited her to the Australian Open next month to honour her incredible 1970 grand slam where she won all four majors in a single year.
Next year marks the 50th anniversary of Court’s victories at the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.
Court, 77, who is a senior pastor at the Pentecostal Victory Life Centre in Osborne Park, Perth, was midway through her sermon on Sunday morning when she referred to the backlash sparked by her denouncements of same-sex marriage and attacks on sexual minorities.
‘I can go on television and if I say: ‘This is what the Bible says’, well, it’s like opening a can of worms,’ she said.
‘You think: My goodness, you’d let a torpedo off or something. No it’s true – because they hate the word of God …
Pastor Margaret Court ministers to her flock at the Pentecostal Victory Life Centre in Osborne Park, Perth, on Sunday. She said LGBT material in schools was ‘of the devil’, creating another controversy for Tennis Australia ahead of next month’s Australian Open honours
‘Even that LGBT in the schools — it’s of the devil, it’s not of God, and most Christians wouldn’t even know what it says within there (the Bible).’
Court said it was wrong to plant ideas in children’s heads that would cause them to question who they are.
‘And you know when children are making the decision at seven or eight years of age to change their sex,’ she said.
‘No, just read the first two chapters of genesis, that’s all I say: ‘Male and female’.’
Court (pictured at Wimbledon during her Grand Slam year) is Australia’s most successful tennis player. Next year marks the 50 year anniversary of her winning all four majors in 1970
Margaret Court at the 2017 Australian Open. The tennis champion is also a Pentecostal pastor
Court said for Christians, the Bible was the road map to a successful life.
‘Do you know, with that LGBT they’ll wish they never put the ‘T’ on the end of it because particularly in women’s sport they’re going to have so many problems
‘And you’ve got young people taking hormones and having changes – by the time they’re 17 they think: ‘but now I’m a boy and really I was a girl’. Because you know what? God’s made us that way.’
The world’s most successful ever tennis player
Court has won a record 24 Grand Slam singles titles.
She completed what is known as the ‘Grand Slam’ in 1970 – which refers to winning all four major titles in one year.
She is also one of only three players in history to complete the ‘boxed set’ by winning the singles, doubles and mixed titles at all four major events.
She was inducted into the Australian Tennis Hall of Fame in 1993.
Court went on to say that being gay was ‘a choice’.
She has previously said tennis is ‘full of lesbians’.
Tennis Australia has had a difficult task at once trying to distance itself from Court’s controversial views while honouring her sporting achievements.
In a statement on November 30 announcing Court’s invitation to the Australian Open, Tennis Australia said Court’s views had ‘demeaned and hurt’ many in their community over a number of years.
‘They do not align with our values of equality, diversity and inclusion,’ the statement said.
‘Our sport welcomes everyone, no matter what gender, ability, race, religion or sexuality, and we will continue to actively promote inclusion initiatives widely at all levels of the sport.’
Court’s views have split the community with some defending her right to express her sincerely held religious views.
3AW radio host Neill Mitchell condemned attempts to ‘bully’ her from her place in tennis history.
He defended Court in November, saying unlike Israel Folau she was not saying gay people would go to hell.
‘She has gay people within her church and says it’s their choice,’ he said on his radio show in November.
‘But she’s got an opinion on gay marriage and now she’s being bullied out of her place in tennis history for that opinion.’
Tennis Australia said the body respects Court’s right to express her opinion, but said that came with the obligation not to harm others.
‘We understand that there are consequences to our words,’ the governing body said in an open letter dated November 30.
‘Publicly stated views of intolerance and demeaning language about others can have enormous impact, and are particularly hurtful and harmful to those who believe they are targeted.
Court speaking on Sunday in Perth. Her children have defended her freedom of expression
‘We have a big responsibility as a sport to play a leadership role in supporting an inclusive community, and respecting the rights of all Australians, whether or not they play our great sport.
‘Similarly, we believe any public figure has a big responsibility to ensure their views are expressed in a way that demonstrates respect and tolerance, and does not cause harm to, or degrade others.
As a sport, tennis is unwavering in playing our part to ensure an inclusive society. We cannot condone views that fracture our incredible tennis community, nor indeed, the wider community.’
Court’s four children have released a statement saying they were disappointed by Tennis Australia’s extraordinary open letter and hoped generations to come would continue to have the freedom of speech to express their beliefs.
‘As mum is a minister of religion it is her job to stand for Biblical principles,’ the statement said.
‘Mum has always been very Bible based in her Christian beliefs and that is the reason why we have such a strong loving family.
‘It is hard for her family to understand how her current lifestyle would possibly affect her Tennis Career in any way. It is disappointing to see Tennis Australia in the Open Letter amalgamating her sporting career which she won for the nation.’