Last Updated on September 15, 2022
Irish schoolteacher Enoch Burke was sent back to prison on Wednesday after a judge refused to grant him an injunction restraining his school from continuing his paid suspension from work. Burke — a history teacher at the Wilson’s Hospital School in Westmeath — was placed on paid administrative leave after refusing to comply with the school’s policy on transgender pronoun usage. The school also obtained a court order that barred him from campus altogether. Burke continued to show up at the school, however, arguing that the policy and subsequent disciplinary action is a violation of his Christian beliefs. He was later arrested at the school on a contempt charge and has remained in prison for over a week.
While in court on Wednesday, Burke sought a series of injunctions against the initial court order that was obtained by Wilson’s Hospital School. Justice Eileen Roberts ruled against his requests, however, and Burke was returned to Mountjoy Prison that evening.
In her ruling, Roberts said his application was “procedurally misconceived” and that while Mr. Burke was entitled to hold his religious beliefs, the school’s placing of him on administrative leave did not infringe on those beliefs.
After making her ruling, Roberts gave the jailed teacher a chance to purge his contempt, which would free him from prison. Burke refused to do so.
“I do think it a gross injustice that the plaintiff [Wilson’s Hospital] and the court is seeking to deny me my religious beliefs,” Burke told the court. “I go back to jail as a law-abiding subject of the state but a subject of God first.”
The teacher was initially suspended on August 24 after questioning the Anglican school’s transgender pronoun policies, which require all teachers and staff to refer to students by which we pronouns they prefer. A male student who is transitioning to a female had asked to be referred to as “they,” which Burke objected to.
He was subsequently jailed for contempt of court on September 5 after he was found sitting in an empty classroom. Despite numerous opportunities to purge his contempt, Burke has refused to do so.