Iowa diocese in talks with school over gay scholarship award

An Iowa Catholic school is being called to account for its role in a controversy involving a gay advocacy group's award, won by a student at a diocesan school with staff encouragement.

“The diocesan superintendent of schools is in contact with the school officials,” Diocese of Davenport Communications Director Deacon David Montgomery told CNA on May 8. He confirmed that Prince of Peace Catholic School staff had urged a student to pursue the Matthew Shepard Scholarship.

Offered by the Eychaner Foundation, the scholarship is awarded to “students who are out and proud and who have worked to improve circumstances for the LGBT Community.” This year, the $40,000 award became a point of controversy when it was won by Prince of Peace senior Keaton Fuller.

The incident cause the Davenport diocese to reaffirm its longstanding guest speaker policy on May 7. The policy says the Church “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.”

On this basis, the diocese refused to offer a platform to the foundation, whose support for redefining marriage is “contrary to Catholic teaching that defines marriage as the sacramental union between a man and a woman.”

The foundation, however, says the diocesan school previously agreed to let one of its representatives appear at Prince of Peace's award ceremony to give Fuller the award. Its certification form asks school officials to “verify … that the scholarship may be presented by a Foundation Representative.”

An administrator at Prince of Peace declined to answer questions about the situation, and directed inquiries to the diocese.

Deacon Montgomery subsequently told CNA that the school staff was aware of the scholarship's significance and purpose when they encouraged Fuller to apply. He also confirmed that a school staff member signed the form which the foundation understood as allowing its representatives to give the award.

In its May 7 statement, the Diocese of Davenport confirmed that Fuller would not receive the award from a representative of the foundation. Instead, he will be “presented the award by a member of the school staff at the awards assembly along with background information concerning the award.”

“We are glad that Keaton and his family chose to pursue his education at Prince of Peace Catholic High School,” the diocese noted. “We hope that Keaton will benefit from the generous award and wish him well in his academic pursuits.”

The diocese also affirmed its commitment to “tolerance and respectful behavior toward all people,” and said it supports the Eychaner Foundation's goal of ending bullying and harassment, while opposing its stance on redefining marriage.

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