Freedom of speech lost in Margaret Court debate

An old couple from the outback were travelling on a packed city bus and they noticed a nun standing up near them on the bus with her leg in plaster and her arm in a sling.

Being full of outback friendliness the wife asked the nun, “Sister, what happened to you?” The nun replied, “Oh, I fell over the other day running for a taxi!” The wife, wanting to continue the conversation but not wanting to appear as some hick from the bush slowly turned to her husband and whispered: “What’s a taxi?” The husband rolled his eyes and replied “How should I know? I’m not a Catholic!”

For the longest time we’ve believed here in Australia that, with so many different peoples and cultures living side by side, we sometimes find other people’s beliefs strange, as our beliefs must appear strange to them. We’re okay with this because in Australia we respect other people’s right to have and express different beliefs. However, the Margaret Court saga this past week has shown that this freedom of speech is clearly under threat and I think it is un-Australian.

Some of the ironies that have come out of the opposition to Margaret Court’s comments are almost as funny as my jokes. The commentators in question are all for “marriage equality” but not freedom of speech equality, or equality in expressing views, or even equality in recognition of talent to those who believe Margaret Court Arena should be renamed, even though Margaret Court won an unbelievable 64 grand slam titles.   

The irony of ironies is that those who want Margaret Court Arena renamed have never called for a renaming of Etihad Stadium or the Emirates Melbourne Cup even though they are both advertising the United Arab Emirates where homosexuality is illegal and punishable by death. 

Another almost humorous irony was where Peter FitzSimons does all but call Margaret Court a bully as he bullies her. 

The whole thing was more than just a mild form of Communism. It appears many of those opposed to Court’s beliefs believe we are all free to believe whatever we want to believe, so long as we believe what they believe.

Margaret Court was raised a Catholic in Albury and stated this week that she has had these views since she was a little girl. Let us also remember that she made her recent comments while same-sex marriage was still illegal in Australia. But even those among us who sincerely believe same-sex marriage should be legalised should be appalled at how Margret Court has been treated because Court’s treatment was not a “one-off”.

As Prof. Andrew McCloud earlier this week pointed out in The New Daily in December 2016 a similar controversy arose when Stephanie Ross (now Stephanie Bastiaan), a Young Liberal activist, defended her right to express her views on abortion in the face of incredibly personal and abusive vitriol. Because Bastiaan, like Court now, holds different views, those views are invalid, stupid, wrong and should be silenced by bullying.

Prof. McCloud wrote in the midst of the Stephanie Ross (Bastiaan) saga last year:

“To me, Ross isn’t someone to be condemned. Knowing the storm her opinion would create she should be congratulated for putting her view regardless. What does it say about where we are heading as a community if we now silence, bully and beat up on views with which we disagree and lose our ability to engage in civil and open dialogue.”

 FATHER BRENDAN LEE