Teacher Lands in JAIL After School Pronoun Dust-Up

Frank Franklin II

Enoch Burke is an evangelical schoolteacher who lives in Ireland. This week, he spent his first evening in Mountjoy Prison in Dublin. His crime? He violated a restraining order keeping him from work. Why the restraining order? He used a student’s masculine pronouns instead of the word “they” as was requested.

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According to the Independent.ie, Burke was suspended from his job back on August 24 over the pronoun issue and continued to show up for work, despite the decision. This prompted the injunction from the school, which he regularly violated. Burke claimed in court that there was a “procedural defect” in the process, making it unlawful. He also told the court in part: “I am a teacher and I don’t want to be in prison. I want to be in my classroom today… It is reprehensible that anyone’s religious beliefs could be taken as a ground for misconduct or gross misconduct,”

Burke maintains that transgenderism is against his Christian beliefs, and the Independent reports that his family has a history of stirring up controversy over gender-related issues, among other things. In fact, Burke is accused of interrupting a closing prayer at the school in June to speak about the pronoun issue.

It is easy to sympathize with Burke, who could be perceived as making a valiant stand for his beliefs, and doubtless many readers will sympathize with those beliefs. But there is another question that needs to be asked: Did Burke do more harm than good?

It’s a difficult question. And the answers may not be easy, either. People who are opposed to transgenderism and are proponents of traditional gender roles and marriage start the debate at a deficit. They are already characterized as every variety of “-phobe,” and even the most vanilla of objections or even satire are seen as being on par with the Westboro Baptist Church. Burke’s actions could easily be portrayed as a “stunt.” And while the article from the Independent indicates that Burke and his family enjoy seem to enjoy conflict, the paper only tells one side of the story.

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The gender issue is highly-charged and one that is designed to foster conflict. Did Burke make a statement by continuing to come to work while suspended, or was he performing for attention and self-aggrandizement? A question I used to ask my reporters back in the day is, “What are you trying to achieve with this story?” The “why” can be just as important as the “what.” I asked reporters if they were trying to report the news, make a difference, or cause controversy.

Burke made a name for himself, but will anyone in the future have to deal with that if they come forward with gender or pronoun concerns? After all, Kathy Griffin is back in the news with her civil war tweet. The last time she made headlines was for posing for a selfie with a mockup of Donald Trump’s severed head. Griffin, it could be argued, was not interested in making a political statement. Likely, she was more concerned about the fact that no one had mentioned Kathy Griffin in a while.

Going forward, conservatives and even some liberals need to discuss how to make a stand. The Left is good at demonstrations, demonization, and owning the news cycle. Any statement or action by conservatives will always be met with a tsunami of vitriol, so the question is, how many more photos of horn-hat guys do we need? Red wave or no red wave, the Left, and the issue of gender aren’t going anywhere soon. Where do we draw the line when it comes to protests, comments, or just taking a stand? Do we need more people like Burke, or do we leave the grandstanding to the Left?

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