The former president of the Uniting Church in Australia has become the latest high-profile figure to hand back their Order of Australia in protest of Margaret Court’s honour.
The Council for the Order of Australia sparked outrage when it was announced that Court would be elevated to a Companion to the Order of Australia - the country’s highest honour.
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The 78-year-old’s feats on the tennis court are unquestionable, with her 24 grand slam singles titles still the world benchmark.
However her comments on the LGBTQ community and her fierce opposition to same-sex marriage have drawn widespread backlash.
On Thursday, Reverend Alistair Macrae declared he will be returning the Order of Australia he was awarded in 2017, slamming Court’s “bad theology”.
“Her public comments in relation to LGBTI people - I won’t repeat them here - are damaging to significant parts of our community, and by no means represent the views of many Christians,” Reverend Macrae wrote for The Age.
“As a minister and theologian, I am aware that bad theology kills people. Bad theology underpinned the racist apartheid regime in South Africa. Bad theology supported Hitler’s racist ideology and the evil it produced.
“Bad theology underpinned or failed to recognise the racist assumptions behind the destructive program of colonisation not least in this land. Bad theology continues to alienate and oppress sexual minorities.
“The upgrading of Mrs Court’s award will rub salt into these wounds.
“Statistics relating to suicide and mental health issues among the LGBTI community are well known and should be of concern to the whole community, not least the community that claims to follow the teaching and life example of Jesus Christ.”
Reverend Macrae joins veteran journalist Peter O’Brien, artist Peter Kingston and Canberra-based doctor Clara Tuck Meng Soo, who all handed back Order of Australia awards in protest against Court.
Members of the Council for the Order of Australia have since said Court’s honour was aimed at addressing a gender disparity between her and male tennis legend Rod Laver, who was made a Companion in 2016.
However Reverend Macrae declared: “It is utterly disingenuous, in this day and age, to claim that Mrs Court’s sporting achievements can be separated from her highly publicised comments about LGBTI people.”
Margaret Court hits back amid controversy
Court, who had already been made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2007, said she doesn’t regret accepting the latest honour.
“No, because I loved representing my nation,” Court told 3AW on Tuesday.
“When I got the AO it was for my community reach area. We put out 75 tonnes of food a week. And this was for my tennis, and I think it was a long-time coming.
“I wasn't one who looked for it. I didn't know I was getting it. I was very honoured when I was told I was.
“There wasn't a lot of fuss about it, but there has been a lot of other people who have made a lot of fuss about it.”
Court reiterated her views that being gay was a choice, and could be cured.
But she felt some of her views had been misconstrued.
“I've always said what the Bible says,” she said.
“I don't hate anybody. I love people, and I love gay people and transgender people, and we get them into our community services. We never turn anybody away.
“A lot of things were said which I never really said, which I think was the sad part.
“I've been bullied a lot in the last few years, and I don't mind. That's alright. But if I say anything, then (they say) I'm a bigot and I'm everything else, and I don't like that.”
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