Enoch Burke: Irish Evangelical Christian teacher returns to prison for using transgender pronouns

Irish teacher Enoch Burke (centre) arriving at Dublin High Court, after being jailed at Mountjoy Prison in Dublin for breaching a temporary court order requiring him to stay away from his workplace, Wilson’s Hospital School in Co Westmeath, and not to attend the classroom. Mr Burke, who is an evangelical Christian, was suspended from work with full pay last month pending the outcome of disciplinary proceedings after a number of incidents stemming from a transgender row.

Enoch Burke, who is an evangelical Christian, was suspended from his job with full pay last month pending the outcome of disciplinary proceedings after a number of incidents stemming from a transgender row at school.

Mr Burke has repeatedly expressed his opposition to a request by the school principal to address a transgender child by name and refer to them by the pronoun “they”.

Mr Burke was jailed at Dublin’s Mountjoy Prison on Monday on the order of a High Court judge after breaching a temporary court order ordering him to stay away from his place of work and not go in class.

On Wednesday, the board of Wilson’s Hospital School in Co Westmeath obtained an interlocutory injunction preventing him from attending school premises.

Mr. Burke told the court that he had no intention of complying with the court orders.

“If this court so decides, I will never leave Mountjoy prison if, by leaving prison, I violate my well-informed conscience and my religious convictions and deny my God.

“It seems to me that I can be a Christian in Mountjoy prison or be pagan and transgender-friendly outside of it. I know where I belong.

“My faith has brought me to this place and will keep me there, God helping me.”

He told the court that if he was given this choice “every hour of every day for the next 100 years,” he would answer the question the same way.

Mr Burke added: ‘This court seeks to strip me of my religious beliefs.’

He also claimed there had been an “unlawful attempt” to persecute him for declaring his opposition to transgenderism and that the court was depriving him of his freedom and dignity. “I spent the last two nights in jail,” he added.

“As you will understand, this is a new experience for me as a law-abiding citizen.

“I have had plenty of time to reflect on my actions and behavior that have brought me to this place and far from finding instances of misconduct, let alone serious misconduct, I have only found that my actions were commendable and that I had the courage to respond to the principal telling her that being transgender was child abuse and a violation of my constitutional rights to free expression of religious beliefs.

He told the court that what he was being asked to do was “against the work of God”.

He claimed the principal’s “demands” forced him into transgender participation.

He further claimed that this request “deprived” him of his religious beliefs.

“I can’t get involved in this, it’s patently wrong, according to my religious beliefs and the scriptures,” he added.

“I considered my actions commendable because I have the integrity to obey God rather than man.

“My belief is that there are two genders, it is my religious belief and our constitution makes room for that belief. It guarantees the freedom to hold beliefs.

He added: “This court cannot deprive me of my religion and cannot deprive me of my dignity, it cannot deprive me of my faith in God and these are things that I intend to ‘to hang up”.

Solicitor Rosemary Mallon, the school’s board attorney, said it was ‘very clear’ from Mr Burke’s comment that he had no intention of complying with the court order.

She said he “knowingly and willfully” breached the order.

She also said the school had no choice but to take legal action as he was continuously attending the school.

Ms Mallon said the case was not about transgender.

She said she requested the interlocutory injunction because Mr. Burke ignored the nature and effect of the legal decision to suspend him with full pay pending the outcome of the disciplinary meeting.

The court was told that the case met the test for prohibitive interlocutory relief and that damages would not be sufficient.

The court was told the headmaster of the school had ‘serious concerns’ about Mr Burke’s behavior and his alleged conduct.

“It wasn’t about his beliefs. He can discuss his beliefs, but it is about his alleged conduct,” she added.

She said the decision to place him on paid administrative leave was lawful and had the effect of preventing him from attending school premises.

“I also say that what Mr. Burke is doing, by opposing this request, is asking the court to interfere with the disciplinary process,” Ms Mallon continued.

“Mr Burke is asking the court to step in and say ‘don’t let the suspension take effect. Let me sit in class and teach”.

“It is interference and it is not the function of this tribunal to do so at such an early stage of the disciplinary process.”

Judge Max Barrett agreed to uphold the interlocutory injunction, adding that the case did not involve transgender.

Barry F. Howard