“I am here today because I would not call a boy a girl,” Burke told the court after his arrest.Christian Teacher in Ireland Willing To Remain in Jail ‘For the Next 100 Years’ Before Using Student’s Preferred Pronouns
A Christian teacher in Ireland has been put in prison for refusing to obey a court injunction preventing him from teaching at or attending his secondary school pending the conclusion of a disciplinary process. Enoch Burke was put on paid leave in August over his refusal to use a transgender student’s preferred pronouns.
“I am here today because I would not call a boy a girl,” Burke told the court after his arrest.
Christian Teacher Enoch Burke Arrested
Enoch Burke teaches German, history, politics and debate at Wilson’s Hospital School in Multyfarnham, County Westmeath. He is one of 10 children born to Sean and Martina Burke, who live in Castlebar, County Mayo. Martina Burke is a certified teacher and homeschooled her children. The family members are no strangers to controversy and have reportedly taken public stands on a number of issues, including those related to the LGBTQ community.
In 2014, Enoch and his siblings, Isaac, Kezia, and Ammi, were banned for life from college societies at NUI Galway. The siblings had been members of the university’s Christian Union Society before they were penalized for distributing flyers protesting gay marriage. The Burkes lost their case against the college in 2021.
In May, Enoch Burke learned that he would be required to refer to a transgender student by a new name and “they” pronouns. On June 21, the Christian teacher requested the principal retract the directive regarding the student. Burke claims his conversation with the principal was calm. However, others say Burke approached the principal again and that their interaction got heated enough that some standing nearby intervened.
An affidavit filed by board of management chair John Rogers also alleges that Burke interrupted a chapel service to express his view that the principal should withdraw the directive regarding the transgender student.
According to The Irish Times, the school board “met to consider the position adopted by Mr. Burke, commissioned a report and arranged a disciplinary meeting for September 14th.” The week of Aug. 22, Burke learned that he was being put on paid leave until the disciplinary process against him concluded. He continued showing up at the school, however.
The school then secured a court order preventing him from teaching or attending, an order Burke refused to comply with on the grounds that it violated his conscience. The teacher was arrested at the school on Sept. 5 for breaching the order. He made it clear to the court that he would continue to breach the order and stated that he was being suspended unfairly: “It is reprehensible that anyone’s religious beliefs could be taken as a ground for misconduct or gross misconduct.” The judge determined that Burke was in contempt of court, and he was sent to Mountjoy Prison in Dublin.
The Independent.ie says that Burke faces an indefinite prison sentence as he will only be freed once he purges his contempt (that is, complies with the order not to attend the school) or a judge orders his release. Burke has stated that to purge his contempt would be to hold his Christian beliefs in contempt.
Burke was back in court today and once again refused to purge his contempt, saying that his actions were “worthy of commendation” and he could not comply with the court if doing so meant denying God. He told the court he would not compromise his convictions if it meant he had to remain in prison “every hour of every day for the next 100 years.”
The Christian teacher is to appear before the court again in one week, although he can choose to purge his contempt at any point prior to that.