A teacher in the Republic of Ireland has been suspended from teaching and later jailed on contempt charges after he refused to address a transgender student by their preferred pronouns.
Enoch Burke was arrested on Monday for violating a court order that barred him from teaching at Wilson’s Hospital School in Westmeath, the news site RTE.ie reported. In addition to being barred from teaching, Burke is not allowed to set foot on the property, per the court order.
Judge Michael Quinn later found Burke guilty of violating the High Court’s mandate. He was then sent to Mountjoy Prison, where he will remain until either he purges his contempt, or the court gives further orders.
The teacher stood by his refusal even when faced with jail time, telling the judge that “it is insanity” that he would be arrested and taken to prison for refusing to violate his Christian beliefs. “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,” Burke told the court.
The saga began when Burke, who teaches politics and German at the school in Multyfarnham, County Westmeath, refused to address a transgender pupil as “they” instead of “he.” He was soon placed on administrative leave by school officials pending the outcome of an investigation and disciplinary process.
Burke refused to stay away from campus, however. He continued to refuse despite an injunction that barred him from teaching or even setting foot on Wilson’s campus.
On Friday, the judge issued an order to arrest Burke after he was found sitting in an empty classroom at the school. He was arrested at the school on Monday and taken directly to court, where he told the judge that he would not comply with the injunction.
“I am a teacher and I don’t want to go to prison,” Burke told the court. “I want to be in my classroom today, that’s where I was this morning when I was arrested.”
“Transgenderism is against my Christian belief. It is contrary to the scriptures, contrary to the ethos of the Church of Ireland and of my school,” he added.