Religious Liberty Essay Scholarship Contest

jefferson for essay contest

Each year, the Religious Liberty Essay Scholarship Contest engages high school students in church-state issues by directing them to express a point of view on a religious liberty topic. Essays are judged on the depth of their content, the mastery of the topic, and the skill with which they are written. Students should develop a point of view on the issue and demonstrate critical thinking, using appropriate examples, reasons and other evidence to support their position. The annual contest is sponsored by the Religious Liberty Council of the Baptist Joint Committee. The grand prize is $2,000 and a trip for two to Washington, D.C. Second prize is $1,000, and third prize is $500.


2017 Contest

The topic for the 2017 contest is now available. Students are asked to write about the following:

The United States, along with many other countries, gives safe haven to refugees of war-torn countries. Many factors are taken into account when determining who is allowed to enter our borders. During the 2016 presidential campaign, there was discussion around the idea of denying entrance to some immigrants and refugees based on their religion.

In an essay, discuss whether a religious test should be conducted as a part of the United States’ immigration and refugee policies.

Explore the intersection, if any, between the proposed test and the two religion clauses in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Be sure to identify the implications for religious liberty of all citizens in your answer.

Click here to download the entry form that includes the complete topic and rulesThe essay, student registration form and essay adviser form all must be mailed together to the following address and postmarked no later than March 10, 2017. You can also download a flyer to promote the contest in your school or house of worship.

2017 Essay Contest

Click here for entry forms 

 All entries must include student essay on this year’s topic, student registration form and essay adviser form.

Entry packets must be postmarked by March 10, 2017.


An Introduction to the BJC

2016 Contest Results




For the 2016 Contest, students were asked to consider whether an elected or appointed official should be able to opt out of certain required duties, such as issuing a gun license, due to a closely held religious belief. Entries should have also touched on how far the government should go to accommodate those beliefs. Click here to read about winner Alyssa Bragg’s trip to Washington, D.C.

Grand Prize

Alyssa Bragg
Colorado Springs, Colorado

Second Prize

Haley Warren
Charlottesville, Virginia

Third Prize

Ellie Gardiner
Bernalillo, New Mexico

Watch Previous Winners Read Their Essays