DUBLIN (LifeSiteNews) — A Christian teacher in Ireland who was jailed after he refused to use transgender pronouns has been released by order of the country’s High Court.
Enoch Burke, a teacher at the Church of Ireland Wilson’s Hospital secondary school in Multyfarnham, Co Westmeath was released from Mountjoy prison by Ireland’s High Court in a ruling delivered Wednesday. Burke had been in prison for 108 days after he was arrested on September 5 for contempt of court, in a case which emerged from his refusal to call “a boy a girl” in the classroom.
Burke, a teacher of history and German, refused to comply with his school principal’s May 9 order to use a female name and pronoun for a male student who was in the process of “transitioning.”
Consequently he was placed on paid, administrative leave August 22 while the school board held a disciplinary process.
After Burke ignored this and continued to attend the school, he was then handed an interim order on August 30 to prevent him from entering the school. The teacher refused to comply with this also, and as a result the school board turned to the police, claiming that Burke could be disruptive to students.
Burke was then arrested for contempt of court on September 5 while sitting in an empty classroom in the school, and taken directly to the court for a hearing. He was sentenced to jail for an unspecified period of time, until he either purged his contempt of court, or until the court decreed otherwise.
Addressing the court at his sentencing, Burke stated “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.”
“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,” the teacher added. “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.”
Judge overturns jail sentence with caveat
On December 21, Burke’s case was initially taken up by the High Court to determine if he could be allowed out of jail during the Christmas period, as the school would be closed. Burke refused to participate in the process, reportedly stating that were he to do so, he would be implicitly agreeing that his imprisonment was lawful.
High Court Justice Brian O’Moore ruled that Burke’s supposed contempt of court was the very reason why the teacher should be set free not just for Christmas, but for an open-ended period, arguing that Burke was using his imprisonment for his own ends.
The judge stated that the intention behind Burke’s imprisonment “was turned on its head when the person concerned is prepared to endure the undoubted discomforts of being imprisoned to obtain some greater benefit, as they see it.”
However, while Burke has been released from jail, he could yet face further charges. Justice O’Moore ruled that Burke’s release hinged upon the fact that the school could return to court to seek Burke’s imprisonment, “the sequestration of his assets, or any other appropriate measure in the event that he does not comply with any Court Order.”
Burke should be able to remain a free man, added the judge, providing that he did not breach any other court orders, and “unless and until any further Court Order is made imprisoning him.”
The school had not proceeded with any further disciplinary measures against Burke while he has been in prison, and as such Bruke remains on paid administrative leave. Justice O’Moore said that “there is a complete stand off between the parties” of Burke and the school.
Burke’s release has been welcomed by campaigners, notably Deacon Nick Donnelly, who has been daily highlighting Burke’s imprisonment.
Enoch Burke has been released from prison
He hasn’t had to compromise his faith & conscience by purging his contempt https://t.co/B3W3sOIMRZ
— Nick Donnelly (@ProtecttheFaith) December 21, 2022
Just one day prior, a protest had taken place outside Burke’s school, with campaigners calling for Burke’s release.
Nice group of us outside Wilson’s school in Westmeath earlier today to raise awareness and show support for Enoch Burke. An innocent man who is locked up because he refuses to call a boy a “they” or bow down to the draconian, corrupt courts. pic.twitter.com/t4qVo2nNIf
— Siobhán (@theheadsaregone) December 20, 2022
Speaking to Gript, one protestor David O’Reilly said that Burke’s sentence was a “dangerous precedent for freedom of speech.”
“We all have an inalienable right not to be forced to say things and to speak freely and contest issues,” said O’Reilly, warning that there is a “cultural revolution going on in Ireland against our values and cultural heritage.”