A teacher in Ireland has been arrested for contempt of court after failing to use the gender-neutral pronouns they/them for a transgender student!
According to the news site RTE on Tuesday, Enoch Burke was arrested on Monday for breaching a court order which barred him from teaching or being physically present at his school Wilson’s Hospital School in County Westmeath, Ireland. As a result, Judge Michael Quinn found him guilty of violating an order made by the High Court last week — and sent him to Mountjoy Prison!! What a major win for the trans community in the area!
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According to reports, Enoch will remain behind bars until he either agrees to follow the court order or the court gives further notice. The judge was clear to state the prison time was a result of the teacher’s refusal to listen to the court order, not a consequence of his transphobic beliefs.
Rosemary Mallon, counsel for the school’s board of management, said in court it was with a “heavy heart” that her client sought prison time for Burke but the school felt it had no choice considering the teacher continued to show up despite a court order issued last week. The dispute comes after Enoch refused to refer to a transitioning student with “they” pronouns, even after the request was approved by the student and their parents in May, and agreed to by the Church of Ireland school. Since he wouldn’t follow suit, Enoch was placed on suspension, pending a disciplinary process. Rather than stay away, Enoch reportedly continued to show up and sit in an empty classroom, declaring he was there to work.
Thus, why the school sought more legal action. On Friday, the judge issued an order to arrest Burke after he was found in an empty classroom — and cops officially took him into custody on Monday. Rosemary said:
“It is a coercive order we are seeking, not a punitive order. We are simply seeking to have Mr. Burke comply with the order. … Mr. Burke is knowingly in breach of this order, he is therefore in contempt and he has made it clear that if he is not committed to prison he will attend at the school [today], and the concerns of the school regarding the ongoing disruption to the students remain.”
Love how committed they are to keeping their students safe! As you can imagine, the teacher is furious with the result of the hearing, arguing he should not be punished for his “Christian beliefs.” Before the judgment was made, Enoch, who represented himself, told the judge:
“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.”
He also pleaded his innocence, saying:
“I am a teacher and I don’t want to go to prison. I want to be in my classroom today, that’s where I was this morning when I was arrested.”
Speaking of his boarding school, he continued:
“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.”
And deliberately refused to abide by a court order…
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On why he feels he has the right to misgender the student, he argued:
“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.”
He felt just as upset about his suspension, explaining:
“It is extraordinary and reprehensible that someone’s religious beliefs on this matter could ever be taken as grounds for an allegation of misconduct. 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.”
Then just stay away from the school and the problem is solved! UGH.
The religious teacher went on to call his suspension “unreasonable, unjust and unfair,” while insisting it has tarnished his reputation in the community (as if his transphobia wasn’t already doing that for him!), he said:
“There has been a dumbing down of the seriousness of suspension. It is a serious step. It has tarnished my good character and my good name, particularly in the profession of a teacher, where one is so close to a large number of members of the local community. It leaves a stain on what has been, for me, an unblemished teaching record.”
Uh, how about considering your students’ best interests before your own ego? Just saying! Enoch, who taught German, history, politics, and debating, claimed he had a great relationship with students who saw him as a man of “professed morals and convictions.” He then wondered aloud how he could return to a school and follow something he viewed as a “violation of [his] conscience,” adding he felt it was “manifestly wrong.”
“[Teachers] around this country, teachers are being forced to participate… they are being forced to use the pronoun ‘they’ instead of either ‘he’ or ‘she.’”
It’s unclear what Enoch’s next steps are, but it doesn’t sound like he’s going to follow the court order anytime soon. Thoughts?!
[Image via RTE]