Scholarship Contest

The annual Religious Liberty Scholarship Contest engages high school students in church-state issues by directing them to express a point of view on a religious liberty topic.

We are pleased to announce our winners for the 2024 Religious Liberty Scholarship Contest! Scroll down to meet our winners, and see links to the winning videos. 

Entries are judged on the depth of their content, mastery of the topic and the skill with which they are produced. 

“I entered because it seemed like a very special type of scholarship. Most are more about what you are going to do with the money and more basic questions. This one asked something that sort of related to me, and I felt like I could share my voice and opinion.”

Yusra Ahmed
2017 Essay Contest Winner

2024 Winners


Religious Liberty Essay Contest

Grand prize winner:

Omar Reyes
Houston, Texas

Essay title: “The Danger of Christian Nationalism: How Book Bans Threaten Religious Freedom for All”

Read an excerpt from the winning essay

“As a proud Muslim American, I cherish the freedom to practice my faith openly and without government interference. It’s a right enshrined in the First Amendment and a cornerstone of our nation’s commitment to religious pluralism,” he wrote, noting that faith freedom is under threat from Christian nationalism. “Proponents of book bans often cloak their arguments in the language of religious freedom, claiming that exposure to ‘offensive’ or ‘immoral’ content violates their right to practice their faith. However, this rhetoric distorts the true meaning of religious liberty, which guarantees the right of conscience for people of all faiths and none.”

Religious Liberty Essay Contest

2nd prize:

Shreya Nallamothu
Normal, Illinois

Essay title: “Reading Between the Lines: Book Bans and Christian Nationalism”

Read an excerpt from the 2nd prize essay

In her essay, she shared two main reasons she saw people who embrace Christian nationalism engaging in efforts to ban books: to impose their religious beliefs on others and to turn our government into a religious government. She shared some of the country’s history of religious censorship in the name of morality, noting that those who embrace Christian nationalism use book bans “to criminalize content and, by extension, to criminalize people.” She said one way to support banned books is to read them. “By seeking and celebrating banned books, readers can stop the erasure of marginalized people. Moreover, exposure to diverse viewpoints fosters empathy and breaks down the fear that Christian nationalists capitalize on when censoring texts.”


Religious Liberty Essay Contest

Grand Prize

Nathan Monroe-Ramberg
Portland, Oregon

Click here to watch the video

Religious Liberty Essay Contest

2nd prize:

Jakub Kozupa
Round Lake, Illinois

Click here to watch the video

Previous Contest Winners
Religious Liberty Essay Contest

“We have seen what happened to the Snoqualmie Tribe [a sovereign tribal nation whose sacred places have been desecrated by industrial development] and how an ignorance of cherished religious rights has infringed on their spiritual liberties. … If we are to uphold America’s value for personal religion, we cannot allow an entire nation’s sacred places to be plowed over.”

Madilynn Hickman / 2023 Grand Prize

Religious Liberty Essay Contest

“Religion is important for people both in life and in death, so giving prisoners the peace they need at the end of their life is a basic freedom that I believe the Founding Fathers would have understood. … The United States has worked hard to ensure our rights are protected. If our nation has fought and died for us to live with our rights, why should we not let prisoners die with their rights as well?”

Bethany Crist / 2022 Grand Prize

Religious Liberty Essay Contest
“The clergy/candidate should also stress the fact that they consider their obligations to the elected office and to the constituents to be extremely important. These multiple obligations are not mutually exclusive and are very much like the multiple obligations that many candidates have to their family, their workplace, and the elected office.”
Grace C. Karanick / 2021 Grand Prize
Religious Liberty Essay Contest
“The word ‘we’ in ‘In God We Trust’ implicates all members of the school. A student’s logical conclusion when adults post such a message is that they must participate in this mutual faith in God to remain in their community, a reasonable feeling of coercion. … If students don’t ‘shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate,’ why should they lose their freedom of religion?”
Lorelei Loraine / 2020 Grand Prize
Religious Liberty Essay Contest
“To keep the political process in the United States as effective as possible, it is vital that the Johnson Amendment be protected in American law. As religious leaders promote the idea that politics and partisanship are not the same, it is my hope that young people become inspired to get involved in the political process …”
Natalia Barber / 2019 Grand Prize
Religious Liberty Essay Contest
“I like political science…. I also really like writing, so this essay contest is just perfect, tying everything that I like together…. I think it’s really wonderful that the Baptist tradition has a long history of supporting religious liberty and church-state separation…”
Lauralyn Lin / 2018 Grand Prize
Religious Liberty Essay Contest
“A religious test whose result determines eligibility for immigrants and refugees places irrational fear over compassion, the very same irrational fear I faced that day when I wore the hijab out with my sisters.”
Yusra Ahmed / 2017 Grand Prize
Religious Liberty Essay Contest
“One specific topic that is currently in the headlines is the right of government officials to opt out of certain job duties when those job duties conflict with their religious beliefs.”
Alyssa Bragg / 2016 Grand Prize
Religious Liberty Essay Contest
“Balance is key to keeping our country a free society: between private practices and public interaction, between private business and individual rights.”
Zoe Almeida / 2015 Grand Prize