Irish teacher who refused to use transgender pronouns to spend Christmas in jail

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Irish teacher who refused to use transgender pronouns to spend Christmas in jail

A Christian teacher who refused to use a student’s transgender pronouns has been sent back to jail until February at the earliest after an Irish judge declined to expedite the hearing of his challenge to a court order preventing him from entering his place of employment. 

Enoch Burke was jailed on September 5 after refusing to comply with a court injunction barring him from teaching at or entering the grounds of Wilson’s Hospital School, a Church of Ireland boarding school in Multyfarnham, Co. Westmeath. 

At last week's Court of Appeal case-management hearing, the evangelical Christian reportedly told Mr. Justice John Edwards that he “shouldn’t be in that chair” after the judge refused to grant a hearing of Burke’s appeal sooner than February 16, 2023. 

Burke also questioned whether Justice Edwards was “colluding” with other the judges before whom the defendant had appeared. 

The teacher’s mother, Martina Burke, was escorted from the court by police when she declared her son was being “robbed of his rights” and that the court was “corrupt.”  

Meanwhile, Ammi Burke, a solicitor and Mr. Burke’s sister, initiated defamation proceedings against the Sunday Independent on her brother’s behalf after the newspaper falsely claimed the teacher was moved from his cell for “annoying” other inmates. 

Ireland’s strict defamation laws have already prompted the Sunday Independent to remove the offending article, but Ms. Burke argued that countless other media outlets and social media platforms have broadcast the smear.  

Mr. Burke meanwhile has repeatedly refused to purge his contempt of court by promising not to attend his place of employment, a declaration that would have secured his release from jail but one he previously said would be giving in to “something wrong.” 

“I do think it a gross injustice that the plaintiff [Wilson’s Hospital] and the court is seeking to deny me my religious beliefs,” he told Ms. Justice Eileen Roberts on September 15. “I go back to jail as a law-abiding subject of the State but a subject of God first.” 

Burke’s refusal to comply with the school principal’s May 9 order to use a male student’s new name and “they” pronoun saw him placed on paid administrative leave on August 22. 

Upon Burke’s continued attendance at the school, he was then handed an interim order on August 30 to prevent him from entering the school. 

Burke, who teaches German, history, and politics, told the court that he refused “to call a boy a girl” as it was “manifestly wrong” and against his conscience. He continued to attend the school despite the injunction. 

Burke was then arrested for contempt of court on September 5 while sitting in an empty classroom in the school and taken directly to the court for a hearing. 

“My religious beliefs are not misconduct. They are not gross misconduct,” he told Mr. Justice Michael Quinn. “They never will be. They are dear to me. I will never deny them and never betray them, and I will never bow to an order that would require me to do so. It is just not possible for me to do that.” 

He added that upholding the biological reality of male and female could not lead to a charge of gross misconduct, and such a charge was the only thing which could lead to a suspension. 

“Transgenderism is against my Christian belief. It is contrary to the scriptures, contrary to the ethos of the Church of Ireland and of my school,” the teacher added. “I love my school, with its motto Res Non Verba, actions not words, but I am here today because I said I would not call a boy a girl.” 

Mr. Justice Quinn claimed that he sentenced Burke to prison based only on his contempt of court, not because of his beliefs, but with Burke sentenced to prison until he purges his contempt or the Court of Appeals finds in his favor next year, it remains unclear as to when the Christian teacher might be released. 

 

 


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