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Gay Catholic-School Student Not Allowed To Accept Scholarship During Graduation

Keaton Fuller, a graduating senior at Prince of Peace Catholic school in Clinton, IA, won the prestigious Matthew Shepard Scholarship, named after the young gay man brutally murdered by bigots in 1998. And Fuller (far right) first heard about the scholarship and was encouraged to apply for it by staff at the school.

But after an Iowa Bishop stuck his miter in, he won’t be able to accept the award at his May 20 graduation ceremony.

Bishop Martin Amos of Davenport, IA, overruled school officials, who originally told Fuller a committee member could present him with the award: “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,” Amos said in a statement.

Oddly, Amos is allowing Fuller’s accomplishment to be mentioned by a school employee during the assembly.

School Board President Edward O’Neill, who said no one on the board had a problem with the scholarship, is shocked and appalled by Amos’ action. “We preach tolerance and acceptance but then we turn around and we don’t practice what we preach,” he told the AP. “If the bishop says we’re not going to do it, I can voice my objection to it but there’s not a whole lot I can do.”

You could resign, Ed. Or leave a church that throws away promising young men.

The situation underscores the growing disconnect between everyday Catholics—who increasingly support LGBT equality—and their out-of-touch and hypocritical clergy. Fuller has been out at school for years with no problem and was even able to take his boyfriend to prom the other weekend.

But somehow accepting this honor is a step too far?

“It is difficult to understand how after I have spent thirteen years at this school and worked hard during all of them, I would be made to feel that my accomplishments are less than everybody else’s,” Fuller wrote in an open letter to students and educators. “This whole ordeal has been incredibly hurtful, and I am even sadder that this will be one of my last experiences to remember my high school years by.”

Given to a few openly LGBT Iowa high school students each year, the Matthew Shepard Scholarship is sponsored by the Eychaner Foundation, a Des Moines nonprofit committed to battling discrimination. Keaton received the scholarship—$40,000 to attend the University of Iowa—for his outstanding academic record and his work reducing homophobia in his school and community.

Below, is the full text of Keaton’s letter. Grab a tissue, it’s heavy stuff.

To: The Prince of Peace Student Body and Staff:

Being the lone openly gay student in a small, Catholic school has not always been easy. Upon first realizing I was gay, I suffered a lot of anxiety over wondering how everybody in this school would treat me if I were to tell people the truth about my sexual orientation. When I did begin to tell people, I was pleasantly surprised and touched to find that nearly everybody treated me with the same acceptance and respect as they always had.

I have always been very grateful to all of you for this.

This past March, I was made aware by our school of an incredible scholarship opportunity. The Matthew Shepard Scholarship is awarded to a few LGBT students across the state of Iowa each year by the Eychaner Foundation in honor of a young man who was beaten and later died because of his sexual orientation. The purpose of the scholarship is not only to honor the recipients for their efforts working for the acceptance of the LGBT community, but also to raise awareness and understanding throughout the state.

After becoming one of eight finalists interviewed, I was very excited. The moment I was told that I had been awarded a 2012 Gold Matthew Shepard Scholarship was one of the happiest of my life. It made me feel that my efforts had truly paid off. When word got around about this achievement, I received a great deal of praise from many of you, for which I am extremely grateful.

Part of receiving this generous scholarship includes having a member of the scholarship committee present the award at each student’s graduation or awards ceremonies. This protocol was communicated to the school as part of the scholarship materials and the scholarship committee received written confirmation that should a scholarship be awarded, a representative from the scholarship committee would be allowed to present it in person to me at graduation. Upon being selected for the award in very early April, the scholarship committee wrote to the school confirming that a committee member would present the award on May 20th.

However, 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. 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.

I have never felt as invalidated and unaccepted as I have upon hearing the news that the scholarship that I have worked so hard for not just in the application process, but also in my deportment and actions over the years, would not be recognized in the way that it should at the graduation ceremony It is difficult to understand how after I have spent thirteen years at this school and worked hard during all of them, I would be made to feel that my accomplishments are less than everybody else’s. This whole ordeal has been incredibly hurtful, and I am even sadder that this will be one of my last experiences to remember my high school years by.

This is a teachable moment for Prince of Peace to stand up against rejecting and invalidating the accomplishments of any student. Please help me by respectfully requesting that this decision be reversed. Share your thoughts about why all students deserve to be treated with respect and dignity at Prince of Peace.

Respectfully,

Keaton M. Fuller

Here’s an idea—maybe Keaton should study theology!

Photos via Facebook

By:           Dan Avery
On:           May 8, 2012
Tagged: , , , ,

  • 32 Comments
    • Damon
      Damon

      Fuck the catholic church!!!!!!

      May 8, 2012 at 8:02 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • What did you expect?
      What did you expect?

      I am a bit tired of reading whiny stories about gay Catholics who are “disappointed” by the hate cult reaffirming its hate for them. The cult hates gay people. It always has and always will. Expecting anything different is foolish. By submitting to its authority through enrolling in its schools or attending its events, you’re submitting to that hate. Complaining that the hate cult hates you is thus self defeating. Grow a pair and dump it already.

      May 8, 2012 at 8:12 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • olterigo
      olterigo

      Reducing homophobia is “contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church?” I guess, the bishop knows what he says.

      May 8, 2012 at 8:29 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Cam
      Cam

      So then will the church not allow students from divorced parents to stand up at graduation?

      Oh they will? Oh that’s right, it’s because it’s all about bigotry and hypocricy, not about the actual religious teaching isn’t it.

      May 8, 2012 at 9:23 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • NovaNardis
      NovaNardis

      @What did you expect?:

      I agree. My best friend from college is culturally Jewish and spiritually atheist. He’s marrying a Catholic girl who didn’t think it would be a problem in the Church’s eyes if they weren’t going to raise their kids Catholic. She was SHOCKED when the priest they went to told her they needed to raise the kids Catholics or couldn’t get married in a church.

      Stop being shocked. This is what the Church does!

      May 8, 2012 at 10:10 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Daez
      Daez

      @What did you expect?: I would agree if this was an adult that chose to attend a Catholic college. However, this is a high school student who did not chose to attend a Catholic High School. His parents made that decision for him.

      Also, has it occurred to you that his parents made that decision simply because they wanted their child to receive the best possible education that they could afford. A lot of these Catholic schools blow the lid off a lot of the public schools. That is where the real problem arises. Because public schools continuously receive cuts in their funding, private owned schools normally surpass them, and Catholic schools do especially well.

      May 8, 2012 at 10:13 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Ogre Magi
      Ogre Magi

      @What did you expect?: I agree 100%

      May 8, 2012 at 11:16 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • 1equalityUSA
      1equalityUSA

      Mr. Keaton Fuller, You learned one of the most valuable lessons of your short life. Run. Lola, run. Don’t look back.

      May 8, 2012 at 11:25 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • JAW
      JAW

      WOW… The first 7 comments are pretty nasty…

      Congrats to Keaton for believing in himself and comfortable to come out to those at his school… and I guess his family… You rock!

      Also congrats to the person at the school that found out about the scholarship, ENCOURAGED him to apply, and most likely supported him.

      Congrats to the students and the staff… seems that they were accepting and helpful.

      Congrats to the school board… they were ok with the presentation at graduation.

      It was just the Bishop that is the ahole… seems that the rest of the Catholics out there are not all bad.

      I Bet that Keaton gets a Huge ovation when it is announced… jsut to show the ahole Bishop what they all think.

      Keaton… Congratulations… You prove that It IS Better!!

      May 8, 2012 at 11:44 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • mika
      mika

      why do people even take their cues form a church known to rape innocent children??

      May 8, 2012 at 12:16 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • John Jacobs
      John Jacobs

      The Davenport diocese is bankrupt because of lawsuits won by children that were sexually abused by priests. You would think this Bishop would be trying to fix that problem and not bash a young man. Amazing hypocrasy!!!

      On September 13, 2011 the International Criminal Court from Hague was asked to investigate Vatican Officials and the Pope for “Crimes Against Humanity” for the cover up of sexual abuse of children. Between 1945-1985 10,000 to 20,000 children where raped by priests and monks in Belgium and Holland alone. Recently a priest in Germany, who had been an aid to the Pope when he was a cardinal, was arrested on 267 counts of sexuall abuse against 3 boys. Given the rest of the horrors the Catholic Church has given humanity such as killing people who would convert (Charlemagne, Charles the Great) killed 80,450 people that wouldn’t convert, the crusades, burning to death “heretics”, inquistions, and other horrors against mankind. They have no right to tell anyone anything about how to live their lives or deny them anything. “Crimes Against Humanity” always looks good on a religion’s resume!!!

      Noted historians from around the world have estimated the Catholic Church has killed approximately 1.9 million people in the last 1700 years.

      Since parishioners have done nothing to stop these horrors and continue to show up at mass every Saturday or Sunday then they are culpable.

      May 8, 2012 at 12:38 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Belize
      Belize

      @What did you expect?:

      And I’m a bit tired of hearing overly self righteous queens assume a shit load of things about other people as though the lives of the queens in question are supposed to be the skeletal pattern of other lives within the LGBT community. But I guess we both have to live with what we’re sick of, no?

      What makes you think that he was the one who chose to go to the Catholic school? Also what makes you think that the circumstances would’ve made it easier for him to leave? Grow a brain and use it.

      What did he expect? Guess what, he expected to be royally vilified by the school after he came out and he wasn’t. I bet that’s a big slap to your theory. And who was it that convinced him to apply for the scholarship? The CATHOLIC school. I guess that’s another dent in your predictable theory. What was he fighting for, a reconciliation between a faith that does, AT THE VERY LEAST, show some sign of wavering from its archaic belief system in order open its doors to its more unconventional members.

      Can you really blame the kid if he’s not as cynical and PRESUMPTUOUS as you are? Probably… but that doesn’t make him any less of a person compared to you who are as judgmental as the people you are vilifying.

      May 8, 2012 at 12:45 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • cl.nelson@frontiernet.net
      cl.nelson@frontiernet.net

      Would it be possible for the student’s parents to get up when his scholarship award is announced and walk over to him and him his award?

      May 8, 2012 at 12:45 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Belize
      Belize

      @mika: Possibly for the same reason we take our cues from a community that has also had its history of sexually-related misdeeds.

      May 8, 2012 at 12:50 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • codyj
      codyj

      Bishop amos is jus another typical old Queen with a tall order of OCD..Im sorry for the young man,and hope he realizes jus how fukked up that RCC is…the clergy an its lil black book, sure makes me happy about my own beliefs about their great big ‘sky god’

      May 8, 2012 at 2:44 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Ogre Magi
      Ogre Magi

      @Belize: The people in charge of the Catholic chuch are the ones making these rules, and it is not as if they have been shy about proclaiming them!Yet so many lay people act mystified and hurt when they find out about them. If I worked for a company I would always pay attention to what the boss said in order to know what to expect. If he was making rules that hurt me, I would quit. Why are Catholics too dumb to figure this out?

      May 8, 2012 at 3:13 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • xtopep
      xtopep

      Ogre Magi: Why are Catholics too dumb to figure this out?

      well maybe because growing up Catholic (especially in a protestant country) is to grow up in a social and cultural world that gives an identity precedes the acquisition of a gay identity. So it’s not really like quitting a job that doesn’t suit you.

      that said, as JAW suggests, lay Catholics often disagree with the hierarchy. It’s time lay people began to teach the priests and bishops.

      Congratulations to Keaton!

      May 8, 2012 at 4:43 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Ogre Magi
      Ogre Magi

      @xtopep: Yeah, like they are going to listen! It is not a democracy

      May 8, 2012 at 5:06 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Shannon1981
      Shannon1981

      Firstly, congratulations to this amazing young man. He is awesomely deserving of this prestigious honor.

      I am also glad that his school years were not difficult.

      Now, as for the child abusing religious cult that is the RCC-no surprise at this Bishop’s actions. None at all. Hope he leaves that church and becomes an atheist.

      May 8, 2012 at 5:19 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • JAW
      JAW

      @Ogre Magi:

      There are few things in life that we all agree on… Hell even on this thread, there is a lot of disagreement. GLBT people cover a full range of ideas an beliefs. Many GLB people wish the T would go away… many T people wish that the BLB people would leave them alone… Men have issues with women… and the women have issues with men. But we all put asise some of our beliefs, because we know that for the most part we believe the same… That we are all good people and deserve equal rights.

      Catholics are the same, as are most religious people. We all have basic beliefs, but sometimes we do not agree with ALL of the teachings, or in our Leaders. A Bishop gets only one vote in the booth… The majority of Catholics are pretty much on our side, as they seem to be at Keaton’s school.

      and as u said Ogre… the Catholic Church is NOT a democracy… But we all have things in it that we believe in.

      May 8, 2012 at 5:22 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Sarah
      Sarah

      @What did you expect?:
      The kid has been at that school for 13 years, meaning by the time he came out he had already formed friendships, and become a member of the school community. It doesn’t necessarily mean he is Catholic.

      May 8, 2012 at 8:47 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Logical Katt
      Logical Katt

      No matter what you try to hide it behind, whether it is “Why are you shocked due to its catholic views” or whatever nonsense, no point is valid enough to keep him from accepting it.
      Please, stop making yourself look an ignorant homophobic person and think before you type a response.

      Why can’t we all just agree that, even if we were all the same with the exact same beliefs and wisdom, we’d still find ways to find superiority and hatred in others? The only thing we can be sure of is that we know nothing! Goodness gracious me… humanity will never cease to disappoint me, whether it be from intelligent people denied their rights to accept an award simply due to uncontrollable preferences, or ignorant bystanders who have to stick their two cents in on why YOU shouldn’t feel bad about it and all that noise.

      We can all agree, no matter what reason, this is wrong.
      Thank you, Katt.

      May 8, 2012 at 8:57 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • dude
      dude

      @Damon: i couldn´t agree more

      May 8, 2012 at 9:04 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • John Jacobs
      John Jacobs

      I still think it is amazing to watch men in dresses and goofy hats to find fault with gay men. The garb that Catholic leaders wear make gay drag queens look straight.

      Face it catholic parrishoners these guys are never going to let you have control of their church. You just have to go along for the ride. They haven’t changed on iota in 1700 years. They are still manipulating the masses and milking money from everyone.

      Leaders of the catholic church still believe they talk to an invisible man in the sky that’s coming back soon. Face it folks, after 2000 years of waiting he is not coming back and the leadership is just milking you for money and power.

      May 8, 2012 at 10:01 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • JAW
      JAW

      @Logical Katt:

      Sadly… your post makes No sense at all… nothing logical at all in what u wrote

      Try Again

      May 8, 2012 at 10:32 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Heidi
      Heidi

      Regardless of one’s “religious” views on homosexuality, treating people as one would want to be treated is the highest priority. It’s not actually in keeping with ANY religion, not even Catholicism, to treat someone badly for ANY reason. Treating gay people badly is really screwed up, even in terms of Catholic values, because it’s treating someone badly. Which goes against this most basic and most important value of all. This behavior makes no sense, even through the most conservative Catholic lens, because it’s screwing the most important thing, treating people as one would want to be treated. There’s nothing legitimate about this pitiful behavior, regardless of one’s theology on the subject of homosexuality.

      May 9, 2012 at 12:35 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Herb Kreiter
      Herb Kreiter

      Has anyone started a petition on change.org or sumofus.org? This would be a good one to do.

      May 9, 2012 at 3:12 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • artzguy
      artzguy

      SERPARATE CHURCH & HATE

      May 9, 2012 at 7:35 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Dartagnon Puissant
      Dartagnon Puissant

      Get used to it Keaton. I went to a Jesuit high school and was told over and over that masturbation was a sin but when I investigated it, I found that it is a NATURAL body function that is necessary for proper growth. Finally, when I hit 16, the priest in the confessional REFUSED to grant me absolution unless I promised to do my best to STOP the practice. I told him that I was going to leave the Catholic Church for GOOD if that was HIS decision and he said that he had no control over it. It was one of the tenets of the Catholic Church … so I left the Church that afternoon and have not been back since except to go to Easter Sunday mass with my Mom since it pleases her so, and I rarely get a chance to visit her except at that time of the year.
      What I did to make up for the fact that I STILL missed The Creator and Jesus Christ was to form my OWN Church … The Fontanetum et Lucem Universal Church of Whitewater, http://askthedragon.org/fontanetum_et_lucem_church_of_wh.htm . You can see how the Catholicness is still hanging with me when you look at the name of the Church but old habits die hard. HOWEVER, my Church frowns on HATRED, condemnation or judgment of others, we are open to ALL FAITHS and ALL preferences, gay or str8, and we promote LOVE between TWO INDIVIDUALS and once California Law allows, we will be marrying gay and lesbian couples and giving the Sacraments to same. But I am NOT harboring any ill will toward the Catholics, who are innocent go-betweens, and the Catholic Church may ostracize as many people as they like … for they are WELCOME in my church and for those who choose, we have Catholic mass on Sundays too. Our Church has only ONE Tenet … “Harm ye No One”. It’s too bad that the Catholic Church does not have a similar tenet but MY church follows the Life and Beliefs of Jesus Christ TO THE LETTER and we would never do ANYTHING that would tarnish Jesus’ Good Name, whereas the Catholic Church prefers to set their OWN rules and defy the laws of God and Jesus. GOD will JUDGE Bishop Amos and the Pope for their HATEFUL WAYS against homosexuals, God’s Creatures, their spitefulness of the Bible’s Teachings (Matt7:1-5), and their refusal to accept Jesus’ Law “Love thy neighbor” and their direct SLAP of God’s FACE by telling GOD that some of God’s Creations do NOT measure up to the Catholic Church’s standards. After all, it was NEVER GOD who spoke against gay people but rather the Council of Trent in the 1500′s who declared DArwinism and Gayness as being “against God”. In other words MAN spoke for GOD NOT God, not the Bible, and def NOT Jesus Christ! What the CAtholic Church is doing to religion is blasphemous and needs to be corrected but it will be up to the Catholic congregation to tell the Pope to quit being so Anti-Christlike! But will the Pope listen and turn once again to GOD for direction? It is doubtful since the Cat Church has not budged on the subject since the Council of Trent made its ruling. Not even God has a voice in the Catholic Church it seems. It makes sense now that the Catholic Church was directly founded upon Paganism and that the Pagan followers were all brutally murdered to cover up the fact AND that most other churches do NOT consider CAtholicism to be a Christian Religion which it seems it turns out it is NOT! They CLAIM To worship JC and I’m sure the followers do in earnest, but the Catholic Church is the FARTHEST from be Christian of ALL churches, including the atheist religions.

      May 9, 2012 at 5:39 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jon
      Jon

      That’s one reason why religion is one of the downfalls of society. It’s lacking in spiritually, but full of dogma.

      May 10, 2012 at 2:26 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Banzel
      Banzel

      The headline is wrong. A school representative can present the scholarship to him. The Bishop prohibited a representative of Eychaner, offering only that Eychaner supports gay marriage and that the diocese has a policy of not allowing presentations by those who advocate positions at variance from church teaching. The situation is still worth discussing and critiquing, but the misleading headline does nothing to inform the debate.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:24 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mcflyer54
      Mcflyer54

      @What did you expect?: Their hatred is basically a result of their own self-loathing closeted existence. If all of the gay priests, bishops and cardinals were to leave the church the only people left to run the church would be a bunch of lesbian nuns.

      May 11, 2012 at 11:03 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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