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Teacher who refused to use student’s pronouns jailed after returning to school

Enoch Burke, an evangelical Christian, refused to use a student’s preferred pronouns

Holly Bancroft
Thursday 08 September 2022 15:34 BST
Irish teacher suspended from school, jailed over transgender pronouns row

A teacher has been jailed for refusing to stay away from his school after they suspended him when he refused to call a pupil “they”.

Enoch Burke, an evangelical Christian, was put on a paid suspension by Wilson’s Hospital School in County Westmeath, Ireland after he refused to use a student’s preferred pronouns.

He broke a court order, which compelled him to not go to or try to teach at the school.

Mr Burke went to the school anyway and sat in an empty classroom and declared he was there to work.

Justice Michael Quinn jailed the school teacher for contempt of court, an indefinite prison term which can only be ended if Mr Burke agrees to submit himself to the terms of the injunction.

In passing the sentence, Justice Quinn said he was only ruling on whether there had been a wilful breach of the court order and not on Mr Burke’s beliefs.

The court order was put in place to prevent disruption at the school at the start of the new term.

Mr Burke was arrested on Monday morning at the school by police before the court hearing.

He told the judge that he loved his school “but I am here today because I said I would not call a boy a girl.”

He continued: “Trangenderism is against my Christian belief. It is contrary to the scriptures, contrary to the ethos of the Church of Ireland and of my school.

“It is insanity that I will be led from this courtroom to a place of incarceration, but I will not give up my Christian beliefs.”

Lawyers from the school said they did not want to see Mr Burke, a history and german teacher, jailed but that they had taken action as a last resort.

The court heard that Mr Burke had breached the terms of both his paid suspension and the temporary injuction by turning up to school and sitting in an empty classroom.

The injuction will be reviewed in a further court hearing on Wednesday.

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