The Diocese of Davenport has reached agreement with the Eychaner Foundation concerning presentation of an award to a gay student at Prince of Peace Catholic School in Clinton.
Keaton Fuller, a senior at Prince of Peace, is one of eight recipients of a Matthew Shepard Scholarship from the Eychaner Foundation based in Des Moines. The scholarship honors the memory of Shepard, a 21-year-old tortured and murdered in Wyoming in 1998 because he was gay.
Under the agreement, Lee Morrison, diocesan superintendent of schools, will read a script during graduation ceremonies May 20 at Prince of Peace Church that has been prepared by the Eychaner Foundation and approved by Bishop Martin Amos. Mike Simonson, an architect and member of the scholarship committee, will present an eagle statue to Fuller.
The Eychaner Foundation thanked Bishop Amos for graciously working to find a mutually acceptable way to resolve the dispute regarding presentation of the scholarship.
The agreement was reached after Fuller requested Prince of Peace students and faculty to ask the diocese to reconsider its decision prohibiting an Eychaner representative from presenting the scholarship at graduation ceremonies in the church. The issue drew national media attention.
“From the beginning, Keaton Fuller and his family were committed to a respectful action to ensure that all students were treated fairly, without disrupting the graduation ceremony,” Rich Eychaner said. “By keeping the protest gracious and being respectful of the prerogatives of the diocese, we were able to find common ground in a procedure all parties could support. We appreciate Bishop Amos’ willingness to find a mutually agreeable resolution.”
Bishop Amos congratulated Fuller for receiving the scholarship and expressed appreciation to the Eychaner Foundation for respecting Catholic teaching regarding speakers in Catholic churches.
Regardless of the different views held by Eychaner and the diocese on same-sex marriage, the work of the foundation for tolerance and respect for all people is commendable, especially regarding the anti-bullying programs the foundation advocates, Bishop Amos said. The diocese also supports anti-bullying and has a policy pertaining to it.
“Principles of mutual respect and careful listening exhibited by all parties allowed a solution to emerge,” the bishop said. “We have many things we agree upon, and have also agreed to accept the fact that we also have some things we disagree about. But that shouldn’t prevent all of us from celebrating Keaton Fuller’s success over 13 years in Catholic schools and our mutual hope for his success in college and beyond.”
Fuller said he was pleased a solution was found, and indicated he was glad the matter was resolved. “My biggest fear was that this matter would overwhelm my classmate’s significant accomplishments and the joy we all feel in graduating,” he said. “My family is focusing now on graduation and celebrating the end of the school year.”
“Our family is pleased we were able to work with the diocese to reach a mutually agreeable compromise regarding the presentation of Keaton’s scholarship, his mother, Pat Fuller, said. “We greatly respect Bishop Amos and Dr. Morrison for their willingness to recognize the many and varied issues represented in this one decision. Based on the responses we have gotten from around the world, there are a good many people out there who are hurting and need to feel they belong somewhere. If we have given them hope in some small way, we have achieved our goal.”
Morrison said he is pleased that the issue has been worked out “so that all 22 members of the graduating class can enjoy their final day as Prince of Peace students.”