Teacher Enoch Burke has told the High Court he would never leave Mountjoy Prison if it meant “violating” his conscience and religious beliefs.
The question now is how long the evangelical Christian will remain behind bars.
He was jailed on Monday for contempt after defying temporary court orders ordering him to stay away from his workplace and not attempt to teach children there.
The board of directors at Wilson’s Hospital, a Church of Ireland diocesan school in Multyfarnham, Co Westmeath, received the orders last week after continuing to show up for work despite being suspended on full pay pending the outcome of a disciplinary hearing.
His suspension last month stemmed from concerns from the principal about his behavior and the impact it might have on students, after he publicly opposed a request from her to address a transgender child by her preferred name and the pronoun ” she” instead of “he”.
The only way Mr Burke can be released now is if he removes his contempt or if a judge, at his discretion, exercises his release.
To remove his disdain, he would have to commit to following orders.
I can be a Christian in Mountjoy Prison or I can be a pagan acceptor of transgenderism outside
During a hearing yesterday, at which he quoted from the Bible and Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken,” Mr Burke made it absolutely clear that he was not ready.
After spending two nights in jail, he was put on trial over a motion by the school board to continue the order, which he resisted.
“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. “I can be a Christian in Mountjoy Prison or I can be a pagan transgender acceptor outside of prison.”
Mr Burke, who hails from Co Mayo, will have another opportunity to get his scorn removed next week, but few would bet he would.
It is not uncommon for people who violate court orders out of strong belief in a cause to be imprisoned for months. A recent example was two men jailed for obstructing a bank’s lawful takeover of a farm in Co Roscommon, which was the subject of a controversial eviction in 2018.
Michael Anthony McGann, the previous owner, and Kevin Taylor, a retired Garda, served five months in prison before finally pledging to stay away from the property.
However, there have been cases where people have been released without having shed their contempt.
This happened most recently in June, when a judge released two men who were serving a fortnight in jail after trespassing on a property in Co Carlow, although the pair refused to pledge not to do so again. In that case, Ms Judge Emily Egan said the detention had served its purpose and it was not appropriate that they remain in Mountjoy Prison in Dublin.
Mr Burke told the court he spent his time in prison considering his actions. The court had previously heard that he had interrupted a chapel service in which he asked the principal to withdraw the motion. Claims were also heard that he “hotly” questioned her after a school lunch.
I consider it laudable that I have chosen to obey God over man
He said far from finding instances of wrongdoing, he only found acts that were “commendable.”
He claimed he “should be commended for having the courage” to tell the principal that transgenderism was an abuse of children and that what the principal had asked of him was “contrary to the teachings of God.”
“I consider it laudable that I chose to obey God over man,” he said.
He criticized the decision to imprison him, stating: “This court was dishonorable and mean, contemptible and vile.
“The tragedy of this case is that I paid dearly for merely expressing my opposition to transgenderism.”
Rosemary Mallon, for the school board, dismissed Mr Burke’s characterization of why he was in prison.
“The defendant said at the hearing that this case was about his refusal to call a boy a girl. That’s not the point in this case. This case is not about transgenderism,” the attorney said.
“This is a request… from a school because a teacher ignored the nature and effect of a lawful decision by the board to suspend him from salary pending the completion of a disciplinary proceeding.”
Judge Max Barrett agreed with Ms Mallon and proceeded with the restraining order, adjourning the matter until next Wednesday.
The judge said Mr Burke could return to court before then if he wanted to remove his contempt.
However, the teacher said, “I would like to obey the court, but I cannot ignore my conscience and religious beliefs.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/courts/teacher-enoch-burke-vows-never-to-leave-mountjoy-prison-if-it-means-violating-my-religious-beliefs-41970450.html Teacher Enoch Burke vows never to leave Mountjoy Prison ‘if it means violating my religious beliefs’