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Freethought Today

Vol. 20 No. 1 - Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. -
January/February 2003

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Announcing 2003 Student Essay Competitions for High School & College Students

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has announced the topics for its 2003 annual essay competitions, one for currently enrolled college students, the other for graduating high school seniors who are college-bound in the fall.

The 24th annual student competition asks college students to write on "Growing Up a Freethinker" or "Rejecting Religion" in a 5-6 page essay (typed, double-spaced with standard margins and an original title). Personal essays describing experiences rejecting religion in a religious society are welcome, as are philosophical approaches to this theme.

The Phyllis Stevenson Grams Memorial Award of $1,000 will go to the first-place college essay winner. Second place is $500 and third place is $250. Honorable mentions of $100 are awarded at judges' discretion.

Phyllis Stevenson Grams, who died in 1996, was an early activist member of the Foundation. A retired high school teacher, she was the fearless plaintiff in a state/church lawsuit in her conservative town.

Entrants in the college competition are required to include a paragraph biography that identifies the college they attend, their year in school as well as their major and interests.

College essay submissions should be postmarked no later than July 1, 2003, and should be mailed (no emails or faxes accepted) to: College Essay Contest, FFRF, PO Box 750, Madison, WI 53701. College students should provide their campus and permanent addresses, phone numbers and emails.

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The theme of the 2003 high school essay contest, open to graduating seniors who are college-bound in the fall, is "Why 'Under God' Does Not Belong in the Pledge of Allegiance." Students are asked to write a 2-3 page essay on this theme (typed, double-spaced with standard margins and their own title).

Students may write about personal experiences with Pledge of Allegiance recitations in their schools, and/or generally address the problems occurring since the secular pledge was amended to include "under God" in 1954.

First prize, the Blanche Fearn Memorial Award, is $1,000. Second prize is $500 and third prize is $250. Honorable mentions of $100 are awarded at judges' discretion.

Blanche Fearn, a longtime member and benefactor of the Foundation, died in 1995. Although she never had the opportunity to attend college, she held a lifelong interest in learning. As an elementary school student in the early 1900s she bravely objected to prayers at her public school. She maintained a keen interest in the separation of church and state throughout her life.

High school essay submissions should be postmarked no later than June 1, 2003, and should be mailed (no emails or faxes accepted) to: High School Essay Contest, FFRF, PO Box 750, Madison, WI 53701. High school seniors should include a biography that identifies the high school they are graduating from, and the college or university they will attend in the fall, interests and intended majors. High school grads should provide their campus and permanent addresses, phone numbers and emails for fall 2003 if available.

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Winners for both contests will be announced by September 2003.

Winning essays will be published or excerpted in Freethought Today, the Foundation's monthly newspaper. All eligible entrants will receive a school-year subscription to Freethought Today,

Print out this announcement if you would like to help publicize the Foundation contest to area high schools, colleges or universities. The contest rules can be accessed at the Foundation's webpage: http://www.ffrf.org/essay.html


January/February 2003 Excerpts