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Essay Contest

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, mastery of the topic and the skill with which they are written. 

Entries are now being accepted for the 2020 Religious Liberty Essay Scholarship Contest, open to all high school juniors and seniors. The grand prize is a $2000 scholarship and trip to Washington, D.C.

Download the entry form and topic from the button below. Your essay must be postmarked by March 6, 2020.

“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

Current Topic

2020 Topic

Several state legislators have introduced bills requiring “In God We Trust” to be displayed prominently in public elementary and secondary schools. These bills encourage placement of the motto in high traffic areas, such as cafeterias and libraries.

Write an essay in the form of a letter to your state representative, encouraging them to adopt or oppose legislation mandating the prominent placement of “In God We Trust” in public schools. Your essay should support your stance, explain whether the proposal violates the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment, and show how such legislation would impact all students and faculty, both religious and nonreligious.

How to Apply

To enter, you must mail your essay (between 800-1,200 words), the registration form and the essay adviser form to BJC, postmarked by March 6, 2020.

The grand prize is a $2000 scholarship and trip for two to Washington, D.C. Prizes of $1000 and $500 are also available.

Additional details and registration forms are available here.

For questions, contact BJC Director of Education Charles Watson Jr. at [email protected].

Previous Contest Winners

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