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What did Margaret Court *really* say?

The tennis Grand Slam mega-champ is back in the news

Billie Jean King, a US former world number one tennis player, is the latest voice calling for Melbourne’s Margaret Court Arena to be renamed because of Court’s controversial views on same-sex marriage.

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The focus of the latest controversy is a rambling interview Court gave to a Christian radio station last year. Just as she did on the court, King may be using a bit of spin.

King, who won 39 Grand Slams in her career, was a major rival of Australia’s own Grand Slam queen Margaret Court. The pair broke the record for the longest set in a tournament final at Wimbledon in 1970. Court won that battle.

“When she talked about children of transgenders being from the devil, that put me over the edge.” – Billie Jean King

Margaret Court has won more Grand Slam women’s singles titles than any other player, coming in at 24. She’s won 64 Grand Slam titles overall (including 19 women’s doubles and 21 mixed doubles titles). She is now senior pastor at Victory Life Centre, a megachurch in Perth, which she founded in 1991.

The 2018 Australian Open begins today. During the first days of her visit to Australia for the tournament, where she has been named the Australian Open’s Woman of the Year, King told ABC Television, “I was fine until lately, she [Court] says so many derogatory things about my community,” said King, who is openly gay.

“When she talked about children of transgenders being from the devil, that put me over the edge, I must say,” said King.

The first calls for the renaming of Margaret Court Arena came in May last year, after Court wrote an open letter defending her belief that marriage should remain between a man and woman. In the letter, Court suggested she would stop flying with Qantas after the company declared its support for same-sex marriage.

“I suggest Billie Jean first check her facts before making allegations against my wife.” – Barry Court

Court’s comments about transgender children were part of a 40-minute interview on Vision Christian Radio, also in May.

Court’s husband, Barry, wrote a letter to media outlets at the weekend, defending his wife.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, Mr Court said his wife “never made the statement that transgender children being of the devil [sic]”.

“I suggest Billie Jean first check her facts before making allegations against my wife,” Mr Court wrote.

“We have reputable sources review all her press releases and interviews and cannot trace these remarks back to Margaret.”

Eternity has listened to the Vision Radio interview. Court doesn’t say that transgender children are from the devil. In a rather rambling way, Court talks to Vision Radio’s 20Twenty host Neil Johnson about the influences that can make a child question his or her gender, in particular the infamous Safe Schools programme, in the context of her book Train Your Brain. The book, published in 2016, outlines Court’s belief that the way you think “creates your future”.

“You can think, ‘I’m a boy’ and it’ll affect your emotions and feelings and everything else. That’s all the devil.” – Margaret Court

“Patterns of fear, rejection, guilt, negativity, failure, depression, addiction, indecisiveness, timidity and more can all be conquered and replaced with the life-giving Word of God,” reads the book blurb.

This line of thinking – that you can “think” your way out of same-sex attractedness or gender confusion – is itself controversial.

Here is what Court actually said:

“The gay lobby is behind that bullying programme in the schools. And, you know, children not knowing … they’re taking out ‘he’ and ‘she’ and you become an ‘it’ and a ‘we’ and a ‘they’. And, you know, if you feel like being a girl you can dress like a girl if you’re a boy. And if you’re a boy … uh, I think what confusion for a child. I get confused just talking about it.

“When I was little, I was very much a tomboy. My mum used to say to me, ‘you should have been a boy’. I could kick the football better than anybody, play cricket. But you know what? I always knew I was a girl. And I was conscious and I was brought up like that. And I liked wearing shorts but I liked wearing dresses. And there was never any other thought that was ever said.

“But with the literature, the bullying, the stuff that’s put out today into children’s minds, I tell you what, if you haven’t got parents who bring you up that way, and you’ve got parents who don’t care and you’re hurt and offended by somebody saying something to you or … I tell you a child can just start to think well, maybe I am a girl, when they’re a boy. Or maybe I am a girl, when I’m a boy. Your thoughts, and even medically they’re knowing now, they say the mind is a battlefield.

“There’s a whole plot in our nation and in the nations of the world to get the minds of the children.” – Margaret Court

“That’s why I wrote that book, ‘Train Your Brain’… it’s all in the Bible. God’s got so much in there about the mind, how it affects us, affects our emotions, our feelings. You can think, ‘I’m a boy’ and it’ll affect your emotions and feelings and everything else. That’s all the devil. That’s what Hitler did and that’s what Communism did: got the minds of the children. And there’s a whole plot in our nation and in the nations of the world to get the minds of the children.”

Earlier in the interview, Court told Johnson she had decided to refuse pre-recorded interviews for fear of being misrepresented.

“I said I’m not doing it unless I go live. Because they just misinterpret you or they edit things and it’s nothing that you said. So I said I’m not doing that any more.”

Margaret Court will not be attending the Australian Open this year, choosing instead to spend time with her family in Perth.

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