In a courtroom in Dublin, Enoch Burke, a teacher jailed for refusing to use gender-neutral pronouns, pleaded with the judge to be released for the Christmas period.
Burke had been suspended from Wilson's Hospital School in County Westmeath, Ireland after he refused to address a transitioning student as ‘they’ rather than ‘he’ on the basis of his devout Christian beliefs, the Daily Mail reported.
Despite being ordered by the school to stay away, Burke continued to attend and was subsequently arrested and jailed in September.
Burke argued that he was not a criminal and asked the court to "free me for Christmas," citing his religious beliefs as justification for his refusal of the court order.
His parents Sean and Martina were present at the hearing and expressed their fury over their son's imprisonment; Sean Burke said that his son had simply been brought up in a Christian family while Martina Burke declared that her son was being denied his constitutional right to express his Christian beliefs.
The judge refused Mr. Burke's plea but noted that he could be released at any point if he purged his contempt before the court; however, Mr. Burke maintained that this would be reneging on his duty to God and thus refused again. He will remain in custody until further notice unless he agrees to abide by the order not to attend school.
At the Dublin High Court in September, Mr Burke made a passionate plea for his freedom, recalling his criticism of his school’s edict on using the pronoun ‘they.’
He argued that this was in opposition to scripture and the teachings of all churches, and that his suspension was unreasonable, unfair, unjust and unlawful.
Rosemary Mallon, who represented the school before the court, said that if Mr Burke had been successful in getting his suspension overturned he would ‘return to the classroom.’
However, Mr Burke refused to purge his contempt for the court and declared that he would never leave prison if it meant violating his religious beliefs.
He also claimed there was an 'unlawful attempt' to persecute him for stating his opposition to 'transgenderism,' and that the court was depriving him of both liberty and dignity.
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.
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.