No school, least of all a Christian one, ought to be confirming children down the path of gender transition, and Enoch Burke is brave to confront this ideology, says Caroline Farrow
Irish school teacher and evangelical Christian, Enoch Burke, is making front page news after he was jailed for contempt of court, following a row with his employer about his refusal to use the ‘correct’ pronouns for a male pupil who currently identifies as a girl.
Burke was suspended from his teaching position at a Church of Ireland boarding school on full pay after he failed to obey a court order prohibiting him from entering the school. Burke had been suspended over an alleged dispute about a transgender pupil, whom he failed to address by their new chosen name and pronouns.
The case is not quite as straightforward as headlines from either side of the gender debate would have you believe. The school did not take Burke to court simply because he refused to subscribe to gender theory, but because at the end of the previous term he had disrupted a school anniversary service and publicly challenged the headteacher about the school’s transgender policy.
Burke was then informed that he would be suspended from his position, the day before the Autumn term was about to begin. He refused to stay away from school and instead sat in an empty classroom, declaring that he was there to work. Infuriated and concerned by potential disruption to pupils, the school sought a temporary injunction from the High Court, which Burke refused to abide by, leading to his current prison sentence.
Cases like these are inevitable when you force people into upholding views which contravene reality
It is very easy to be condemnatory of Burke who has to take some share of responsibility in choosing to wilfully disobey a court order. On a personal note I have also had the unpleasant experience of being dragged to the High Court and subjected to a temporary injunction for the perceived offence of ‘misgendering’, which was deemed as potential harassment.
An injunction was granted forbidding me from referring to the transgender activist online but the exercise somewhat backfired on him, as it was only granted on the proviso that he was similarly bound from mentioning me online.
Happily, in my case, the injunction was set aside, but I understand all too well what it is like to be faced with unjust and seemingly vindictive civil proceedings. The Claimant in my case used the injunction like a sword, not a shield, and proceeded to spend the next six months scouring my online output determined to find some breach, and eventually issued contempt proceedings because I had made a comment about a pork pie! I then found myself in the ludicrous position of explaining to the court that I had never previously referred to the Claimant as any kind of foodstuff, in order to avoid spending two years in the clink!
Enoch Burke’s behaviour was clearly not in the same category, because unlike me, he blatantly chose to make a nuisance of himself and flout a court order. However, you do have to ask yourself whether or not he is to blame?
Medical authorities in the UK, Sweden and Finland are calling into question the wisdom of allowing minors to transition. And the UK’s world-leading Tavistock gender clinic has been shut down as not fit for purpose, following a series of whistle-blowing claims from staff.
Enoch Burke is correct when he says: “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.” What he hasn’t said, is that it also goes against good science and medicine.
This teacher, with a previously unblemished record, has not, however, been jailed or suspended for his beliefs, but rather for the way in which he has upheld them – in other words, his behaviour. Cases like these are the inevitable result of what happens when you force people into upholding and promoting views which contravene reality. There will always be those who are courageously prepared to sacrifice everything to highlight or incorrect a gross injustice.
Much has been made of Burke’s family background – he is one of ten siblings from a deeply religious evangelical family who have all had a series of skirmishes with the legal system in a society that wishes to discard itself of any links to its Christian heritage. The Irish also have a proud tradition of being jailed on account of political activism.
Enoch Burke is digging his heels in, refusing to purge his contempt and saying that he will never leave Dublin’s Mountjoy prison, where he is incarcerated. There will no doubt be many more media hit-jobs on him and his family.
One just has to wonder whether or not he ought to heed the disciple Matthew’s advice about rendering under Caesar that which is Caesar’s, as well as remembering that one catches more flies with honey than vinegar. Regardless of his eventual fate, you cannot doubt his courage or tenacity. After all he is right, no school, least of all a Christian one, ought to be confirming children down the path of irreversible physical, emotional and spiritual harm.