Teacher jailed after refusing trans student’s pronouns — Analysis

Enoch Burke was convicted of contempt for arriving at work in spite of a suspension from the disciplinary department.

Enoch Burke, an Evangelical Christian schoolteacher has been taken into Mountjoy Prison, Dublin. He was charged with contempt of Court after vowing to obey a temporary injunction that would have kept him from campus while he awaits the result of a disciplinary hearing. Burke was kept in isolation for his first night in jail on Monday. 

Justice Michael Quinn has vowed to keep Burke behind bars until he agrees to comply with Wilson Hospital School’s demands. Burke claimed that Burke was not allowed to do so because it would be against his religious convictions. He also admitted that if Burke were not in jail, he would return to work each day. 

Because I don’t consider a boy to be a girl, I am here today,” he declared, insisting that doing so was “I was harmed by 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. 

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Burke decided to not wait to see the outcome of the disciplinary proceedings. Instead, he continued to show up at school. This led his employer to obtain a court injunction prohibiting Burke from returning to campus after Wednesday. He was eventually arrested for continuing to disobey the rules over the weekend. 

Burke dismissed Burke’s suspension against him, saying that it was invalid and unfair. He argued that gross misconduct is necessary for such a punishment, while he had only expressed religious convictions that transgenderism was incompatible with 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 me of my contempt and hold my Christian beliefs in contempt” or “Go into the school, and I will bow before something that is clearly wrong,” i.e. that his “Believing in male or female gender is wrong.”

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