Teacher jailed after refusing trans student’s pronouns
Evangelical Christian schoolteacher Enoch Burke has been locked up in Mountjoy Prison in Dublin, Ireland on contempt of court charges after he vowed to continue disobeying a court injunction meant to keep him off campus pending the outcome of a disciplinary proceeding. Burke spent his first night in the jail in isolation on Monday.
Justice Michael Quinn has vowed to keep Burke behind bars until he agrees to comply with Wilson Hospital School’s demands. However, Burke insisted that doing so would violate his religious beliefs, and admitted that if he were not jailed he would resume showing up for work every day.
“I am here today because I would not call a boy a girl,” he declared, insisting that doing so was “in violation of my conscience.” Burke and other staff had been told to address a formerly male student who wished to transition by a different name and use ‘they’ pronouns back in May, but the teacher refused to do so, setting off a series of clashes that culminated in his suspension last month with full pay.
Rather than stay home waiting for the disciplinary proceedings to conclude, however, Burke continued to turn up at school, leading his employer to secure a court injunction barring him from campus until Wednesday. His continued disobedience ended with his arrest over the weekend.
Burke dismissed the suspension order against him as invalid and unfair, arguing that 'gross misconduct' is required for such a penalty, whereas he had merely expressed his religious beliefs that 'transgenderism' was contrary to church teaching.
“It is reprehensible that anyone’s religious beliefs could be taken as a ground for misconduct or gross misconduct,” Burke said.
Contempt charges carry an indefinite prison term, which is ended only when the person agrees to purge the contempt or the judge opts to order the individual’s release. Burke, who has represented himself in court, insists he will not “purge my contempt by holding my Christian beliefs in contempt” or “go into the school and bow to something I know to be manifestly wrong,” i.e. that his “belief in male and female is wrong.”