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Diocese of Davenport bars anti-bullying group from Catholic school ceremony

By Andy Birkey, American Independent
Tuesday, May 8, 2012 17:01 EDT
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Matthew Shepard Scholars via screenshot
 
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The Diocese of Davenport, Iowa, said Monday that a foundation supportive of LGBT students cannot present a scholarship to a student at one of the Diocese’s schools because the foundation’s mission is “contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

The Eychaner Foundation, an anti-bullying group, awarded high school senior Keaton Fuller a $40,000 scholarship named after Matthew Shepard. The Prince of Peace Catholic School and the Eychaner Foundation had previously reached a written agreement to allow a foundation representative to attend the school’s award ceremony on May 20 and do a brief presentation.

That agreement, obtained by The American Independent, stated: “Please verify that the correct date and time are provided above with the correct name and contact information for the event coordinator and that the scholarship may be presented by a foundation representative if student is awarded a Matthew Shepard Scholarship.”

It was signed in mid-March by the school’s scholarship coordinator.

But last week, the school reneged, apparently after the Diocese intervened. Instead of a presentation by the Eychaner foundation, the Diocese says the award will be presented by a school staff member.

“On Friday, April 27th, my family and I were told by the school that a member of the foundation would not be permitted to present this award at graduation,” Fuller said in an open letter to school staff and students on Monday. “The scholarship committee has not been notified of this decision and my family has been put in the middle, so my family has asked for a reversal of the decision.”

He added, “I have never felt as invalidated and unaccepted.”

Prince of Peace referred questions to the Diocese of Davenport.

The Diocese forwarded a statement to TAI that said it had a “long-standing policy” regarding guest speakers at its schools. “We cannot allow anyone or any organization which promotes a position that is contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church to present at a diocesan institution,” the policy states.

“The mission of the Eychaner Foundation is to promote tolerance, understanding and anti-bullying policies. We help [LGBT] students survive and work to prevent teen suicide,” said Rich Eychaner, an Iowa businessman who started the foundation. “We’re shocked that Bishop Amos and the Diocese of Davenport find these positions ‘contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church.’”

Diocese spokesman Deacon David Montgomery said in a statement, “Keaton will be presented the award by a member of the school staff at the awards assembly along with background information concerning the award.”

That doesn’t satisfy Eychaner.

“Why would we allow others to present an award we make possible?” Rich Eychaner said Monday afternoon in response to the Diocese’s statement.

“We were pleased that Prince of Peace promised to support all of their students,” added Eychaner executive director Michael Bowser. “We had faith that their written agreement would mean something.”

The Diocese of Davenport spokesperson declined a request for an interview.

By Andy Birkey of the American Independent

[Image via Eychaner Foundation]

 
 
 
 
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