A man who has been in jail since September will reportedly spend Christmas in prison after refusing to refer to one of his “transgender” students using their preferred pronouns.
Enoch Burke, a teacher from Ireland, had requested to be released from prison ahead of Christmas during a sitting of the country’s High Court on Tuesday.
Burke had initially been jailed back in September after an incident where he reportedly refused to use a “transgender” pupil’s preferred pronouns, which eventually led to him ignoring a court order that he stay away from the school he taught in.
Although the teacher reportedly claimed that the order flew in the face of his religious freedom, the High Court reportedly refused to consider this line of argument, before ordering that the teacher be jailed until he purges his contempt.
So far however, Burke has remained steadfast in his claim that the court order violates his religious freedoms, with the Irish Independent reporting the man as asking the sitting judge to release him in consideration of the religious significance of this time of year.
“I would beg of this court to free me from this prison,” Burke reportedly told the court, insisting again that the court’s order that he stays away from his school flies in the face of his religious freedom as guaranteed by the Irish constitution.
“I believe in the courts system and I believe in the administration of justice,” he remarked. “But when I am commanded by the court to accept an order that denies me my religious freedom, I cannot in all good conscience comply with that.”
“The fact of the matter is I was requested by principal Niamh McShane that it was expected of me to participate in transgenderism and to call a 15-year-old boy ‘they’ or ‘a girl’,” he continued. “It is something I cannot do in all good conscience as it goes against my religious beliefs.”
“I am not a thief. I am not a murderer. I am not a drug dealer. The reason that I am in prison today is because I refused to leave the school I worked in when I was suspended solely on account of my religious beliefs,” he went on to say.
However, Mr Justice Conor Dignam refused the request, saying that it remained the case that Burke does not want to obey an order issued by the court, and that he was “not going to debate” whether the order actually conflicts with Burke’s religious freedoms.
According to Irish state-owned broadcaster RTÉ, the judge’s decision means that Burke will remain in jail for the Christmas period.
This legal case remains ongoing.