Contact: Ilana Ostrin   202-544-4226     [email protected]

WASHINGTON—Students can win money for college by writing an essay discussing whether public school calendars should accommodate religious holidays in the 2018 Religious Liberty Essay Scholarship Contest. The annual contest is sponsored by the Religious Liberty Council of the Baptist Joint Committee.

The contest engages high school juniors and seniors in church-state issues by directing them to express a point of view on a religious liberty topic. To enter, students must write a 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.

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. Any high school student graduating in 2018 or 2019 is eligible to enter the contest.

The grand prize is a $2,000 scholarship and a trip for two to Washington, D.C. Prizes of $1,000 for the second place winner and $500 for the third place winner are also available.

Essays will be evaluated by a panel of religious liberty advocates, and will be judged on the depth of their content, the mastery of the topic and the skill with which they are written.

Entries must be mailed and postmarked by March 9, 2018. Winners will be announced by the end of summer 2018, and the grand prize winner will be recognized at the BJC board meeting in Washington, D.C., in October 2018.

Visit for the entry forms and complete contest rules. For questions about the contest, contact Charles Watson, BJC Education and Outreach Specialist, at 202-544-4226 or email [email protected].


The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty is an 81-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based religious liberty organization working to defend and extend God-given religious liberty for all people and protect the institutional separation of church and state in the historic Baptist tradition. The BJC has filed amicus curiae briefs in more than 100 cases in the courts, including most of the U.S. Supreme Court’s cases dealing with religious liberty.