Contact: Jordan Edwards   202-544-4226

WASHINGTON— High school juniors and seniors can win up to $2,000 for college in the 2016 Religious Liberty Essay Scholarship Contest, sponsored by the Religious Liberty Council of the Baptist Joint Committee. Essays must examine conflicts that arise when the personal religious beliefs of elected or government-appointed officials clash with their job duties, and students should propose a solution that addresses the rights of all parties.

Each year, the contest engages high school students in church-state issues by directing them to express a point of view on a religious liberty topic. The grand prize is $2,000 and a trip for two to Washington, D.C. Second prize is $1,000, and third prize is $250.

High school students in the graduating classes of 2016 and 2017 can enter the contest by writing an essay between 800-1,200 words addressing the following:

At times, an elected or government-appointed official may encounter a conflict between his or her job requirements and a personal religious belief. For example, a county clerk may not want to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because of his or her religious view of marriage. Similarly, a clerk who is a pacifist may object to issuing a gun license based on his or her religious belief.

Should an elected official be able to opt out of certain job duties? How far should government go to accommodate elected or appointed government officials who have religious objections to certain job requirements?

Write an essay in which you discuss both the rights and responsibilities of the official and of the individual(s) applying for the license. In what way does your solution affect all parties involved?

Entries must be mailed to the Baptist Joint Committee and postmarked by March 4, 2016, to be eligible.

Winners will be announced by the end of summer 2016, and the grand prize winner will be recognized at the BJC board meeting in Washington, D.C., in October 2016.

Essays will be 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, arguments and other evidence to support their position.

Visit for complete contest rules. If you have questions, contact Charles Watson Jr. at 202-544-4226 or by email at


The Baptist Joint Committee is a 79-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based religious liberty organization that works to defend and extend God-given religious liberty for all, bringing a uniquely Baptist witness to the principle that religion must be freely exercised, neither advanced nor inhibited by government.