Enoch Burke has again refused to obey court orders barring him from his job, despite spending two nights in jail for contempt of court.
I can be a Christian in Mountjoy Prison or I can be a pagan acceptor of transgenderism outside,” he told the High Court today.
The teacher, an evangelical Christian, was suspended from work on full pay last month pending a disciplinary hearing following incidents in which he opposed a request from his principal to address and use a transgender child by his preferred name the pronoun “she” instead of “he”.
He was jailed Monday for resisting preliminary court orders that he should stay away from the workplace and not attempt to teach children there.
The matter went to court today, where the Board of Directors of Wilson’s Hospital School, a boarding school in the Diocese of the Church of Ireland in Multyfarnham, Co Westmeath, secured the extension of the restraining orders.
Addressing the court, Mr Burke made it clear that he had no intention of removing his contempt by agreeing to comply with the orders.
“I will never leave Mountjoy Prison if, in leaving this prison, I must violate my well-informed conscience and my religious beliefs and deny my God,” he said.
He said that given the choice of either obeying orders or acting in accordance with his religious beliefs, his answer would be the same for the next hundred years.
He claimed the court had stripped him of his freedom and dignity but could not strip him of his integrity and religious beliefs.
Mr Burke repeated claims that transgenderism went against the teachings of every major church on the island of Ireland.
He said that during his time in prison he had time to consider whether any of his actions were wrong or amounted to wrongdoing and concluded that what he had done was “honorable”.
“I consider it laudable that I chose to obey God over man,” he said.
He was critical of the decision to jail him, stating: “This court has robbed itself of all honor and has been mean, contemptible and mean.”
“The tragedy of this case is that I paid dearly for merely expressing my opposition to transgenderism.”
He also claimed the school’s actions to suspend him had “severely damaged my reputation, blackened my character and sullied my reputation as a teacher.”
Rosemary Mallon, solicitor for the school’s board of directors, said it was “very clear from the defendant’s comments that he has no intention of abandoning his contempt, nor has any intention of not attending Wilson’s School.”
She told the court it was not about Mr Burke’s faith or transgenderism.
“It’s not about his beliefs, it’s about his behavior,” she said
The attorney said the case was in court because Mr Burke “was a teacher who ignored the nature and effect of the school board’s lawful decision to suspend him from pay pending the outcome of the disciplinary proceedings”.
Mr Justice Max Barrett agreed to continue the injunction.
He agreed that the issue was “not about transgenderism” but about violating a restraining order.
The judge adjourned the matter to Wednesday next week but said Mr Burke could return to court before that if he wanted to remove his contempt.
Mr Burke, representing himself at the hearing, replied: “I would happily obey the court, but I cannot ignore my conscience and religious beliefs.”
His brother Isaac and his father Seán were present at the court.
Afterward, he was taken to a waiting prison van and taken back to Mountjoy.
The orders that Mr Burke violated were issued by Ms Judge Siobhan Stack on August 31.
This was an injunction barring him from Wilson’s Hospital School and from attempting to teach its students.
The orders were sought by school officials after he continued to show up for work despite being suspended on August 24.
He defied orders, showed up at school every day and sat in an empty classroom. He was arrested at school on Monday and jailed for contempt of court.
The dispute has its roots in a request last May by then-principal Niamh McShane that teachers should address a transgender student by a new name, using the pronoun “she” instead of “he.”
Mr. Burke is one of ten siblings of a prominent Burke family of Castlebar, Co. Mayo who have been involved in a number of lawsuits and other disputes in recent years, some involving their religious beliefs.
He has claimed his suspension from work was unlawful, but has taken no legal or other action to appeal.
Ms McShane emailed the request to staff on May 9 after meeting the transgender student and his parents.
The email that led to an angry response from Mr Burke the next day.
According to an affidavit from the school’s chief executive, John Rogers, Mr Burke replied via email: “I am shocked that students from this school are being forced to accept this position.”
He asked whether the students’ parents were informed and whether the school chaplain agreed.
The headmaster replied that there was “no suggestion of violence by or for anyone” and that the chaplain’s approval was not required.
She said that if Mr. Burke was not ready to have the child in his classroom he should make an appointment to see her.
In response, Mr Burke wrote: “It is wrong for this belief system to be forced upon students and I will continue to pursue it. It is an abuse of children and their constitutional rights.” Later that day, he interrupted a staff meeting, asked the chaplain where he stood on the matter, and questioned the appropriateness of a faith school placing a student in this manner.
In another email, Ms McShane explained the school’s approach.
She told Mr Burke the school’s ethos is inclusive and the welfare of the students is paramount. Her admissions policy, she said, reaffirms that the school will not discriminate against a student on any of the grounds set out in the Equality Act.
She said the right of individuals to be called by a name of their choice and in accordance with their preferred gender is a recognized right.
However, Mr Burke’s objections went further. The High Court was told that in June he interrupted a chapel service marking the school’s 260th anniversary and asked Ms McShane to withdraw her “claim”.
According to Mr Rogers’ affidavit, a dinner was held afterwards. It is alleged that after the meal he reached out to Ms McShane and “excitedly” asked her to withdraw her request to staff. Ms McShane said she was ready to speak to him but this was not the place and she walked away from him.
However, it is alleged that he followed her and continued to question her aloud, and that other people had to come between them to prevent the questioning from proceeding.
Mr Burke tried to downplay both incidents when he first appeared in court earlier this week.
He claimed he questioned Ms McShane only once after dinner and then left her alone.
His suspension came after the headmistress submitted a report to the board in which she expressed “serious concerns” about how Mr Burke might act in the future.
A disciplinary meeting was scheduled for September 14. It is unclear if it will take place while Mr Burke is in prison.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/courts/i-will-never-leave-mountjoy-prison-enoch-burke-refuses-to-purge-his-contempt-of-court-41968826.html ‘I will never leave Mountjoy Prison’ – Enoch Burke refuses to remove his contempt of court