A teacher who refused to use gender-neutral pronouns for a transgender student has been jailed for contempt of court.
Enoch Burke was arrested yesterday morning, September 5, for breaching a court order not to teach at his Westmeath school, or be physically present there.
The dispute began over his refusal to address a transitioning student as “they” rather than “he”, as requested by the student and their parents in May, and agreed to by the Church of Ireland school.
Judge Michael Quinn ordered that Enoch Burke be committed to Mountjoy Prison until he agrees to obey an order not to attend or attempt to teach any classes at Wilson’s Hospital School in Co Westmeath.
The school had suspended him from his position as a teacher of History and German.
The order was granted after the school’s lawyers told the court that Mr Burke was not complying with both the terms of his paid suspension and an ex-parte temporary injunction requiring him to stay away from the school.
The judge said that Mr Burke must remain incarcerated until he purges his contempt and agrees to comply with the injunction secured by the school last week.
After Judge Michael Quinn made his ruling, Mr Burke said: “It is insanity that I will be led from this courtroom to a place of incarceration, but I will not give up my Christian beliefs.”
The judge made the order after Mr Burke told the court that he could not comply with the order, and that he intended to return to the school.
Mr Burke said that his suspension arose over his objection to the school’s direction to staff last May to call “a boy,” as being “a girl” at the school.
Burke said that such a direction was “contrary to scripture” and was against the “ethos of my school and the Church of Ireland”, and something he could never agree to as he does not agree with transgenderism.
He said that agreeing to comply with the court order amounted to a breach of his own morals, ethos and religious views.
He said he “didn’t want to go to prison” and respected the law. However, complying with the orders would be “a contempt” of his own deeply held Christian beliefs which, he added, are “very dear to me”.
Mr Burke was arrested on Monday morning, September 5, at the school by the Gardai (police) before being conveyed to the Four Courts in Dublin.
The school. located in Multyfarnham Co Westmeath, is the Church of Ireland’s Diocesan School for Meath and Kildare.