Essay Prompt, Requirements, Eligibility, and Awards

First Place Prize: $4,000
Second Place Award: $3,000
Third Place Award: $2,000
Fourth Place Award: $1,000
Fifth Place Award: $750
Sixth Place Award: $500
& $200 honorable mentions at judge's discretion

All eligible entrants will receive a full 1-year complimentary student membership in FFRF, which includes a digital version of 10 issues of Freethought Today, FFRF's newspaper (publishes winning student essays).

PROMPT: State legislatures across the country are considering or enacting a slew of “religious exemption” or “religious refusal” bills. Such bills, often misleadingly described as “conscience clauses,” may allow providers (parents, companies, landlords, health care workers, shopkeepers, etc.) to refuse services based on the provider’s personal religious beliefs. For instance, about 10 states have passed bills permitting religious child placement agencies to refuse to work with LGBTQ couples or children. Some states exempt health care workers or pharmacists on the basis of religion from providing contraceptive services; others allow government employees who solemnize marriages to refuse to do so for same-sex couples, etc.

Pick a religious refusal bill, in any state, under consideration or enacted in the current legislative session and evaluate whether the bill strikes an appropriate balance between the religious rights of service providers and the civil and equal protection rights of members of the public most likely to be refused services. Include some analysis of what’s wrong generally with any "religious exemption or refusal" proposal.

WORD LENGTH: 850-1,000 words (not including footnotes)
ELIGIBILITY: Open to all ongoing law school students up to age 30 already attending a North American law school. You remain eligible to enter this contest if you will graduate from law school by spring or summer of 2019. You are not eligible to enter if you will be starting law school for the first time in the fall of 2019.

DEADLINE: Fill out application and submit your essay no later than midnight, July 1, 2019. You will be notified in September if you win.

See details at:

SUBMISSION RULES: Please fill out the online submission form and attach the essay. Essay must be double-spaced, standard margins, font size of 11 to 14 point, and attached as a PDF. Your name and the title of your essay must be included on every page. Pages must be numbered. Indicate word length at end of the essay. Please choose your own title; do not use the topic of the essay as the title. Do not attach a resume with your essay.

AGREEMENT: By entering the competition, you agree to permit your winning essay to be printed in full or in part in Freethought Today, FFRF's newspaper, announced in a news release, and posted online at FFRF's website. You also agree, if you win an award, to promptly provide FFRF with a high-resolution photograph of yourself suitable for reproduction with your winning essay.

REQUIREMENTS: Winners may be asked to send verification of student enrollment. Students will be disqualified if they do not follow instructions, including word limit and deadline. FFRF monitors for plagiarism. 

BANISH MANGLISH: FFRF encourages you to please use inclusive language, rather than male-generic language, if possible.  For example, try "humanity" or "humankind," rather than "mankind."