The Australian Christian Lobby has said a decision to uphold complaints over an article written by tennis legend Margaret Court in which she said homosexuality was a choice as a victory for ‘aggressively intolerant’ gay activists.
She wrote: “Let me be clear. I believe that a person’s sexuality is a choice. In the Bible it said that homosexuality is among sins that are works of the flesh,.
“It is not something you are born with. My concern is that we are advocating to young people that it is OK to have these feelings.”
The Australian Press Council (APC) said complaints had been received saying “this passage was inaccurate because modern scientific knowledge indicated that sexuality was not a matter of choice”, and further that it was “offensive, incited homophobia and would aggravate problems of bullying and suicidal feelings amongst young gay people”.
It upheld the complaints this week, calling the article “potentially dangerous”.
The Herald Sun had said it was “clearly an opinion piece” and that the paper was “was entitled to publish a variety of opinions”.
But the APC ruled: “As the factual assertion about choice of sexuality was very probably inaccurate and potentially dangerous, the newspaper should either have edited it or published accompanying rebuttal (preferably from an authoritative source).”
As the print version of the Herald Sun included a piece by Doug Pollard opposing her view and was followed two days later by a piece in which Martina Navratilova also opposed her, complaints about the physical edition were not upheld.
The online version, however, was not published with links to an “immediate and clear rebuttal of the assertion about choice of sexuality”.
The Australian Christian Lobby has condemned the decision, saying it set a “dangerous precedent against free speech”.
ACL Managing Director Jim Wallace said: “This is clearly not a factual assertion, as the Press Council wrongly ruled.
“It is a sad day for free speech in Australian when the Press Council upholds vexatious complaints, one of which was from a known homosexual activist, that are clearly designed to inhibit free speech.
“Margaret Court’s view, which is shared by ACL and prominent scientists and sociologists, is entirely reasonable and uncontroversial. There is no scientific proof for a ‘gay gene’.”
He continued: “This is an outrageous and lazy ruling which has handed a victory to homosexual activists who are aggressively intolerant of any position which does not line up with their views. The Press Council must immediately rescind this ruling.”
The Doug Pollard article which the online version of the Herald Sun piece now links to says science “backs up” a view of ingrained sexuality, though it does not mention genetics, and warns of the dangers of ‘gay cure’ therapy.
He writes: “Court’s biggest sin is to paint homosexuality as a choice that people can somehow think themselves out of – with, of course, the help of Mrs Court and a lot of prayer. This is bunkum. It has been proved to be bunkum many times over [...]
“Conversion therapy does not turn gay people straight, but it does turn them into damaged, depressed and often suicidal people. It is particularly dangerous to the young.”
The Australian Christian Lobby, having quoted Peter Tatchell’s doubts of genetically determined sexuality, said Mr Pollard “asserted that science proved homosexuality was not a choice without offering a shred of evidence”.
Mr Williams said: “The push for same-sex marriage cannot be allowed to depend on the trashing of free speech.”