Once again, the madding crowd on the internet has lost the high-moral ground on an important social issue. The abuse it has aimed Margaret Court is far worse than her anti-gay marriage stance.
Let me be abundantly clear. I do not agree with Margaret Court’s stance on gay marriage. I have proposed in the past a European model of differentiating ‘legal marriage’ and ‘religious marriage’. Such a differentiation would allow all people to be legally married and allow religions to choose who they ‘religiously marry’.
In standing by that view, I do not agree with Margaret Court that marriage is between a man and a woman. Why can’t a man marry a man, or a woman marry a woman?
But while I will not defend Court’s view, I will defend her right to express her view. More’s the pity that, in doing so, she becomes the target of abuse and exceptional hypocrisy shown by many of her opponents.
Many from the left of politics called Alan Jones and Tony Abbott ‘misogynists’ for allowing comments like ‘Ditch the Witch’ to be directed at Gillard. I agree these comments were vulgar. Imagine my surprise when I read Facebook and social media comments from left-of-politics friends describing Court as “pathetic”, “old witch”, a “stupid woman” and an “Old buzzard”.
The most breathtaking hypocrisy came from a religious teacher of a well-respected central Victorian Catholic school who called Margaret Court a “narrow-minded, homophobic, religious fundamentalist”.
Excuse me if I am wrong, but doesn’t the Catholic Church teach the same “narrow-minded, homophobic, religious” view that gay marriage is wrong?
Could it be that this religious teacher takes money to instruct our children on Catholic views consistent with Court’s in his religious classes, while rounding on that teaching on public Facebook posts?
When I called out this hypocrisy and defended Court’s right to express a view, I was predictably labelled a “bully”, “thought police” and, best of all, a “representative of the neo Christian Taliban”!
Margaret Court’s views are based on a consistent and longstanding religious belief. Even though I disagree with her, I respect her ability to hold and justify a point of principle in the face of adversity.
In December 2016 a similar controversy arose when Stephanie Ross, a Young Liberal activist, cited her religious belief as the basis for her opposition to abortion – even in rape. I disagree with Ross’s view but defended her right to say it in the face of incredibly personal and abusive vitriol coming, again, from the left.
Apparently, according to the left, just because Ross then, like Court now, holds different views, those views are invalid, stupid, wrong and should be silenced by bullying.
In December 2016, I defended Ross in terms that can equally be applied to Court. I wrote on The New Daily:
“In the middle of all of this low-quality debate, but high-quality name-calling, we see evidence of ‘echo chambers’ and self-reinforcing silos where political debate has been replaced by people loudly supporting other people with whom they already agree.
To me Ross (and now Court) 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.
I admit that I am a tad hypocritical in this. There have been times where I too have lost my temper on social media. I am human and imperfect.
But as a society we are becoming less perfect, not more, which is why Margaret Court should be applauded for sharing her view, even if we disagree with it.
Andrew MacLeod is a visiting Professor at Kings College London and a Non Executive Director of Cornerstone Capital in the US. He was a Remain campaigner and has now combined with Brexit campaigners to form Brexit Advisory Services at UK’s Griffin Law. He can be followed @AndrewMMacLeod.