Jailed teacher says he'd 'rather stay in prison for 100 years' than comply with school's transgender rules
A teacher suspended for refusing to use gender-neutral pronouns has said he would rather stay in prison for a century than compromise his beliefs
Evangelical Christian Enoch Burke was jailed for contempt of court on Monday after breaching the injunction not to go to or try to teach at Wilson’s Hospital School in Co Westmeath, Ireland.
A disciplinary process started when Burke refused to refer to a transgender student as “they”.
He publicly confronted the school's principal at a church service and dinner to mark the school’s 260th anniversary in June, hitting out at its transgender policy.
But after he was suspended, he would still attend “meetings” or sit in an empty classroom saying he was ready to teach.
This week, Burke was arrested after turning up “to work”.
In a hearing on Wednesday, the history and German teacher told the court he would not comply to the school's transgender policy even if he had to remain in prison for “every hour of every day for the next 100 years”.
Representing himself, he said transgenderism is contrary to scripture, and that he would “only obey God,” and “not obey man”.
Burke was returned to Mountjoy Prison to spend a third night in jail and was ordered to pay the school's legal costs, which has suspended him on full pay.
He has been told he can be freed simply by signalling his intention to abide by the injunction, which the Church of Ireland school took out to prevent disruption at the beginning of the school term.
Mr Justice Max Barrett, ruled that the injunction should remain in place until a High Court decision.
He said the court’s decision was about the terms of the injunction and Burke’s suspension – not his religious beliefs.
Burke had earlier claimed he was before the courts over his refusal to comply with what he said was his unlawful suspension.
He claimed he was denied his constitutional rights to religious freedom over the direction by the school to address one of its students by a different pronoun.
Burke argued that agreeing to comply with the suspension would amount to agreeing with transgenderism.
He claimed the disciplinary procedures against him were flawed and described any allegation of gross misconduct against him as “ludicrous”.
Burke said the student at the centre of the request was not in any of his classes, nor had he had any direct dealings with the pupil.
The school said it is focusing on the needs and welfare of its students and is affirming its policy in accordance with the 2000 Equal Status Act of not discriminating against any student.
The school said it has acknowledged Burke’s religious beliefs but expects him to communicate with the student in accordance with the student’s wishes.
The school says that, despite his suspension, Burke has not been sanctioned and no finding has been made against him.
The next stage of the school’s disciplinary process is due to take place later this month.