Christian teacher who refused to use gender neutral pronouns remains in prison

Enoch Burke

A Christian teacher who refused to stay away from his school after being suspended in a dispute over gender neutral pronouns remains in prison.

On Wednesday, the High Court in Dublin rejected the application of Enoch Burke for an injunction to overturn his paid suspension by Wilson's Hospital School in County Westmeath, Ireland. 

The Church of Ireland-run school suspended Mr Burke and began disciplinary proceedings after he refused to use the gender neutral pronoun 'they' instead of 'he' for a transitioning student.

The teacher said that using gender neutral pronouns would go against his evangelical beliefs and he continued to come to the school each day despite being suspended.

The school then obtained a court order to keep Mr Burke off school premises during his suspension, pending the outcome of the disciplinary proceedings.

When he refused to stay away from the school, he was sent to Mountjoy Prison for contempt of court where he has been held for around two weeks.

The court has said that Mr Burke could purge his contempt and be freed if he agrees to obey the order to stay away from the school. 

Mr Burke has repeatedly refused to comply with the court order.

In a submission to the court, Mr Burke said that if he were to purge his contempt, it would be like admitting to doing "something wrong".

Ms Justice Eileen Roberts said on Wednesday that the school's decision to suspend Mr Burke was not an attack on his religious beliefs.

Speaking after the ruling, Mr Burke said according to The Irish News: "I do think it a gross injustice that the plaintiff [Wilson's Hospital] and the court is seeking to deny me my religious beliefs. I go back to jail as a law-abiding subject of the State but a subject of God first."