Social media posts have given the false impression that teacher Enoch Burke is being perscuted for his belief that transgenderism goes against Scripture.
Burke, one of ten children raised in a deeply homophobic Irish family, has been in custody for almost a fortnight for ignoring a court order to stay away from Wilson’s Hospital, a Church of Ireland co-ed school in County Westmeath.
The Guardian reported yesterday that Burke failed to obtain a court injunction this week that would have paved his release and return to the school, leaving him in Mountjoy prison in Dublin.
The evangelical Christian calls himself a “prisoner of conscience” and has won support from social conservatives and right-wing cultural commentators across the world since being jailed on September 5.
In a fact-checking piece, Reuters pointed out that social media posts about the secondary school teacher’s jailing “have misled users about why he was imprisoned.”
Although it is true that he was initially suspended from his school pending a disciplinary process over an alleged dispute involving a transgender student, this was not why he was later sent to prison. Enoch Burke was jailed for contempt of court after he breached a High Court order which forbade him from attending the school while a disciplinary review was carried out.
One Facebook user who mislead his followers was Nick Donnelly, who posted a piece saying:
Enoch Burke, an evangelical Christian, has been given an INDEFINITE prison sentence by Irish Judge Michael Quinn for his Christian beliefs. As a teacher, he refused to call a student who was a boy, a girl. This is how anti-Christian Ireland has become.
Facebook flagged the post as being “partly false.”
The Guardian reports says that small group of supporters shouted in protest on Wednesday after a high court judge, Ms Justice Eileen Roberts, ruled against’s Burke’s attempt to overturn the school’s decision to suspend him with pay pending a disciplinary process. They applauded Burke as he was led away.
Burke put on administrative leave
The dispute began after the school instructed staff that a pupil who was transitioning to another gender wished to be referred to by a new name and the pronoun “they”, a change supported by the pupil’s parents.
Burke, from Castlebar, County Mayo, who teaches history, refused, citing his religious beliefs.
The school put Burke on paid administrative leave after he allegedly confronted the principal at a public event and questioned her in a “heated” manner, a claim Burke denies. After Burke continued to attend the school, it obtained a court order barring him from the campus. He continued to show up, prompting his jailing for contempt of court.
Burke has declined requests from the court to purge his contempt—in effect to promise to obey the barring orde—and said he is being punished for his beliefs. He told the court:
I am here today because I said I would not call a boy a girl. 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.
The case has been widely reported in the US and elsewhere, with some reports incorrectly suggesting Burke has been jailed for not using gender-neutral pronouns.
Liberal commentators have blamed the teacher for his predicament and derided those who consider him a free speech martyr. “His transformation into an icon of freedom of expression is frankly hilarious,” Fintan O’Toole wrote in the Irish Times.
Genghis Khan would be a better poster boy for tolerance.Fintan O’Toole
Burke’s parents, Martina and Sean Burke, home-schooled their ten children. They all have biblical names and have became well known for running in student elections, staging protests about LGBTQ rights and suing universities and employers.
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