The High Court has rejected a challenge by secondary school teacher Enoch Burke to the decision of the school where he works to put him on paid leave pending a disciplinary process.
Mr Burke has been in prison since 5 September for breaching an injunction directing him to stay away from the Wilson's Hospital school in Co Westmeath.
The court granted the injunction after hearing he continued to attend at the school during his timetabled hours despite being suspended.
The dispute with his employer arose after a request from the principal to address a student by a new name and use 'they' pronouns.
The school says Mr Burke confronted the principal at a public event and questioned her in a "heated" manner.
It says it is concerned about his future behaviour in the school.
Mr Burke denies questioning the principal in such a manner and says he cannot comply with the suspension or the injunction because it would violate his conscience.
The matter was due back before the court today.
But yesterday Mr Burke made an application seeking an injunction against the disciplinary process, which he claims is in unlawful and in breach of his constitutional rights.
He says there’s no lawful basis for his paid suspension with the effect that he should not have been jailed for contempt of court and should be free to resume teaching in the school.
A disciplinary meeting planned for today was postponed by the school until further notice.
Ms Justice Eileen Roberts said this evening, Mr Burke’s application was "procedurally misconceived" but as he was a lay litigant, she would still consider it.
She said the rules of the Department of Education allowed for a teacher to be put on paid leave pending the outcome of an investigation into allegations of serious misconduct.
In the light of this, she said she was not of the view that Mr Burke’s case was likely to succeed at a full hearing.
The judge said Mr Burke was entitled to hold whatever religious beliefs he wished and it was no attack on these beliefs for the school to put him on paid administrative leave.
She said in view of his stated intention to return to school if not restrained. as well as the previous high court orders, which he had not appealed, the balance of convenience favoured refusing his application for an injunction.
The judge said it had been open to Mr Burke to challenge his placement on administrative leave at a much earlier stage. She also pointed out that he had not appealed the previous orders made by the High Court.
Ms Justice Roberts made no order as to costs.
This means that costs were not awarded against Mr Burke and usually means each side pays their own.
Asked if he wanted to have one more opportunity to confirm whether or not he wanted to purge his contempt of court, Mr Burke again said he would not.
He said he would go back to his jail cell as a "law-abiding subject of this State always, but to God first".
The judge told him he had the opportunity to purge his contempt at any point before he was taken back to Mountjoy Prison.
He was applauded as he was led away by a small group of people who had gathered in court.
Earlier, Mr Burke had told the court it would be unconscionable and contrary to natural justice to allow the disciplinary process to continue until a decision is made to determine if it was constitutional and lawful.
He said putting him on paid administrative leave was unreasonable, unfair, unjust and unlawful.
He claimed a report by the then principal to the board of management breached fair procedures and that the disciplinary process was in breach of a Department of Education circular.
Mr Burke said he considered the previous court orders to be in flagrant and obvious breach of the law and the constitution.
He said the judges should have known the entire disciplinary process was unconstitutional and unlawful.
He said the disciplinary process breached his constitutional rights to freedom of expression, freedom to profess and practice his religion, as well as the obligation on the State to honour and respect religion.
Mr Burke told the court the principal's report into his conduct presented to the board of management breached fair procedures, because it had made findings against him, which were then discussed at a meeting before he was given any opportunity to respond.
Mr Burke said the reason he had been suspended was for professing his religious beliefs rejecting transgenderism at a school event in a "considered measured and respectful way".
He said it was entirely "false" to say that he had followed the principal around afterwards.
"You are not free to freely express opinions or freely practise and profess your religion if you are charged with gross misconduct just a few weeks after expressing those beliefs at a chapel service," he told the court.
Mr Burke claimed the principal’s report read as a personal vendetta and the disciplinary process had gone "irremediably wrong from the outset".
Lawyers for Wilson’s Hospital School again stated that the application was not about "transgenderism," as Mr Burke had alleged.
Barrister Rosemary Mallon said Mr Burke had failed to follow the lawful direction of the Board of Management and had failed to comply with orders of the court.
She said Mr Burke’s new application was an attempt to be released from prison without purging his contempt.
The effect of the order he was seeking was to allow him to go back into the classroom the next day, she said, and was an attempt to appeal a previous high court order to the high court, something that could not be done.
She said it would be of grave concern to the school if Mr Burke sought to go straight back into the classroom tomorrow.
Ms Mallon said Mr Burke was asking the court to intervene in an incomplete disciplinary process, which the court should be slow to do.
There was nothing to back up his assertion that the principal’s report contained findings of fact against him.
He had simply been put on paid leave, pending the outcome of a disciplinary process, she said.
She also asked the court to consider the delay there had been in Mr Burke’s challenge to the suspension.