An Irish school teacher who was suspended over his refusal to use transgender pronouns and names has been jailed after he refused to obey a court order.
Enoch Burke, a secondary school teacher and a Christian at the Church of Ireland-operated Wilson's Hospital School in Westmeath, Ireland, had been suspended with pay in August following a controversy during which he declined to use the preferred name and pronoun ("they") of a transgender-identifying student, according to the News Letter, a Belfast newspaper.
Burke, though, continued to try and teach. The school responded by obtaining a court order prohibiting him from setting foot on the property.
After Burke breached the court order, he was arrested Monday and committed to Mountjoy Prison in Dublin.
Wilson's Hospital School is a boarding school affiliated with the Church of Ireland. Its website says students attend "daily assembly," which features an "act of worship with Bible reading and prayer."
"The spiritual development of our students is pivotal in our ethics," the website says. The school, founded in 1761, gets its unique name from its time as a hospital.
Burke says the school is abandoning its Christian heritage.
"If this court so determines, I will never leave Mountjoy Prison if in leaving the prison I violate my well-informed conscience and religious belief and deny my God," he said this week, according to the News Letter. "It seems to me that I can be a Christian in Mountjoy Prison or be a pagan and respecter of transgenderism outside of it. I know where I belong.
"My faith has led me to that place and will keep me there, God helping me," he added.
The school's request, he said, is "contrary to the work of God."
"I can't involve myself in that, it is manifestly wrong, according to my religious beliefs and the Scripture," he added.
"I have considered my actions to be commendable as I have the integrity to obey God rather than man," he said. "My belief is that there are two genders, that is my religious belief, and our Constitution makes room for that belief. It guarantees freedom to have beliefs."
Rosemary Mallon, attorney for the school, said Burke "knowingly and willfully" disobeyed the court order.
"This was not about his beliefs," Mallon said. "He may argue about his beliefs, but it is about his alleged conduct."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Caspar Benson
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.