Christian teacher who refused to use gender neutral pronouns jailed for contempt of court

Enoch Burke

A Christian teacher has been sent to prison for contempt of court following a dispute with his school over the use of transgender pronouns.

Enoch Burke was suspended by Wilson's Hospital School, a Church of Ireland-run boarding school in County Westmeath, Ireland, after he refused to use the preferred pronouns of a transgender student. 

The student, with school and parental support, requested in May that the pronoun 'they' be used instead of 'he'.

When Mr Burke refused to comply with the request, the school began disciplinary proceedings and he was suspended, the Daily Mail reports.

The court heard that despite his suspension, Mr Burke continued to come to the school and sit in an empty classroom, claiming that he was there to work.

A court order issued last week stipulated that he must not teach or be physically present at the school. 

Mr Burke was arrested on Monday for breaching the court order and sent to Mountjoy prison for contempt of court. 

He said his imprisonment was "insanity" but added that it would not make him change his stance.

"I will not give up my Christian beliefs," he said, according to the Daily Mail. 

"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 Burke said that transgenderism went against his Christian beliefs and that he should not be forced to violate his conscience.

"It is contrary to the Scriptures, contrary to the ethos of the Church of Ireland and of my school," he said. 

Mr Burke went on to claim that across Ireland, teachers are being "forced" to use gender neutral pronouns. 

"It is extraordinary and reprehensible that someone's religious beliefs on this matter could ever be taken as grounds for an allegation of misconduct," he continued.

"My religious beliefs are not misconduct. They are not gross misconduct. 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."

Rosemary Mallon BL, representing the school's board of management, told the court that they wanted Mr Burke to comply with the court order.

"...Mr Burke is knowingly in breach of this order, he is therefore in contempt and he has made it clear that if he is not committed to prison he will attend at the school [today], and the concerns of the school regarding the ongoing disruption to the students remain," she said.

Judge Michael Quinn told Mr Burke that he could be released if he agrees to comply with the court order.

Wilson's Hospital School has been contacted for comment.