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Iowa: scholarship for gay student at Catholic school sparks controversy

Catholic World News - May 08, 2012

Reversing course and citing diocesan policy, a Catholic school in Clinton, Iowa, will not permit a foundation representative to present a scholarship award to an openly gay student at the school’s awards assembly.

Instead, school officials will personally present the award to the student.

Staff at Prince of Peace Catholic School encouraged Keaton Fuller, a senior, to apply for the Eychenar Foundation’s Matthew Shepard Scholarship. According to the foundation, the scholarship is awarded to “openly LGBT Iowa high school seniors with a GPA of 3.0 or better on a 4.0 scale, an ACT score of 22 or better, demonstratable [sic] LGBT activism and community service, and a history of high moral and ethical standards and conduct.”

After the foundation decided to award a scholarship to Fuller, school staff told the foundation that a foundation representative would be permitted to present the award to Fuller. The Diocese of Davenport, citing the diocese’s “long-standing policy regarding guest speakers,” overruled the school’s decision.

“This policy was explained to Keaton’s parents at their meeting with Bishop Martin Amos last week,” according to a diocesan statement. “It [the policy] states: ‘We cannot allow any one or any organization which promotes a position that is contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church to present at a diocesan institution.’”

“Bishop Amos also expressed his congratulations for Keaton’s reception of the award and recognized his hard work in achieving it,” the statement continued.

Ed O’Neill, president of Prince of Peace’s school board, criticized the diocese’s decision.

Describing himself as “disappointed and confused,” O’Neill said that “if you say you’re going to do something, you do it.”

“I guess I don’t understand what the big deal is about somebody from the foundation coming to present the award,” he added.

Responding to the diocese’s decision, gay rights activist Richard Eychenar stated:

The mission of the Eychaner Foundation is to promote tolerance, understanding and anti-bullying policies. We help Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender students survive and work to prevent teen suicide. We’re shocked that Bishop Amos and the Diocese of Davenport find these positions “contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church”.

Do their beliefs support intolerance and bullying?

How can it be acceptable to have school staff present the award in the school, but not allow the sponsor of the award to make the presentation? How is the award itself acceptable to Catholic beliefs but not those who make it possible? Why would we allow others to present an award we make possible?

What is objectionable about a mission of tolerance and understanding, supporting bullied students and suicide prevention that makes us unwelcome at Prince of Peace, but not representatives of US Military Academies and casinos who are allowed to present scholarships at diocesan schools?

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Show 2 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: rpp - May. 08, 2012 5:17 PM ET USA

    So the scholarship requirements state "...demonstratable [sic] LGBT activism and community service, and a history of high moral and ethical standards and conduct.” Is it just me or does anyone else notice the absurdity and inherent idiocy of these two unresolvable contradictory requirements?

  • Posted by: shrink - May. 08, 2012 10:37 AM ET USA

    “Bishop Amos also expressed his congratulations for Keaton’s reception of the award and recognized his hard work in achieving it,”. So Bishop Amos was for the award before he was against it--or is it the other way around? What an embarrassment. What's that headline I see "Ensure orthodoxy in Catholic schools, Pope urges US bishops." Obviously Amos didn't get the memo.

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