Religious Liberty Essay Scholarship Contest

jefferson for essay contest

**The period for entries is now closed. Winners will be announced by the end of summer 2018.**

The 2018 Religious Liberty Essay Scholarship Contest asked students to write an 800-1,200 word essay responding to the following prompt:

In most public high schools, certain days are marked as religious holidays on the school calendar, and the schools are closed on those days.  As public schools become more diverse, some students’ religious holy day(s) are not days that the schools are closed, resulting in absences for those students.

In an essay, discuss whether public school calendars should accommodate religious holidays.

Consider how school administrators should determine if, or which, religious holy days are included in the school calendar, or if any school policies should be changed to better accommodate students’ religious exercise. Be sure your essay identifies how the First Amendment supports your position.

The annual 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. The annual contest is sponsored by the Religious Liberty Council of the Baptist Joint Committee.

2017 Contest Results

For the 2017 Contest, students were asked to assess whether a religious test should be conducted as a part of the United States’ immigration and refugee policies. The contest and its topic were announced in the fall of 2016. For more on grand prize winner Yusra Ahmed, click here. For additional information on the results of the 2017 contest, click here.

Grand Prize

Yusra Ahmed
Quincy, Massachusetts

“A religious test whose result determines eligibility for immigrants and refugees places irrational fear over compassion.”

-Yusra Ahmed, 2017 Grand Prize Winner

Second Prize

Nicholas Sickels
Lawrence, Kansas

“Any faith-based test … gives the government the power to decide when civil liberties do and do not apply.”

-Nicholas Sickels, Second Place

Third Prize

Margaret Lawrence
Roanoke, Virginia

“It is with apathy that the greatest consequences occur.”

-Margaret Lawrence, Third Place

Previous Contest Results



Since 2006, the annual essay contest has engaged high school students in church-state issues. To read all winning essays, view the archived October issues of Report from the Capital. Winning entries from recent years are listed below.











Watch Previous Winners Read Their Essays