2008 Student Essay Scholarship Contests Announced

The topics for the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s two 2008 student essay scholarships have been announced.

Both the high school and the college essay competitions award a $2,000 cash scholarship for the first-place winning essay, a $1,000 cash scholarship for second place and $500 for third place. ($100 honorable mentions” are awarded at judges’ discretion.)

Foundation members are urged to help publicize the competitions at local public high schools, colleges and universities. Handy guidelines, which can be photocopied or clipped and mailed, can be found on the inside back mailing wrapper. T

“Vast numbers of scholarships are geared toward religious students, and seldom reward critical thinking or independent thought. We consider our annual student scholarships one of the Foundation’s most important outreach activities to the next generation of freethinkers,” said Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor, Foundation co-presidents.

The Blanche Fearn Memorial Award for college-bound high-school seniors asks students to write on the timely topic of “Why There Should be No Religious Test for Public Office.”

Article VI of the U.S. Constitution reads: “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust.” Yet is there a de facto religious test for public office in place today? Students may analyze the timely intrusion of religion into the 2008 presidential race, and/or write from a historic, legal or editorial perspective on why this provision adopted by the country’s founders must be honored and preserved. FFRF is nonpartisan; please keep essays apolitical and nonpartisan.

High school essays of 3-4 typed, double-spaced pages and standard margins, should be stapled, include the student’s own title, and a one-paragraph biography. The biography should include permanent and campus address (if known), e-mail and phone numbers, name and city of high school they are graduating from, and name and location of college or university in which they will be enrolled in the fall. The paragraph should include intended major and interests. Do not include a resume.

The high school essays must be postmarked no later than June 1, 2008. No faxed or e-mailed essays will be accepted. Students will be disqualified if they do not follow instructions. Winners will be announced in August 2008. The essay competition is open only to students living in the United States or Canada.

Currently enrolled college students competing for the Michael Hakeem Memorial College Essay Competition are asked to write about “Rejecting Religion,” “Why I am an Atheist/Agnostic/Unbeliever,” or “Growing Up a Freethinker.” They may use a personal (biographical) or philosophical approach, or describe why they choose reason over faith. Experiences in rejecting religion in a religious society may be included.

College students should submit a 4-5 page essay (typed, standard margins, double-spaced, stapled), choosing their own title, and including a one-paragraph biography. Do not include a resume. No e-mails or faxes accepted. The competition is limited to North American students or students enrolled in North American colleges or universities at least through December 2008.

College essays should be postmarked no later than July 1, 2008. College winners will be announced in September 2008.

By entering the contest, winning students agree to have their essays printed in full or in part in Freethought Today, and later posted online at the Foundation website. Winners will be asked to provide a photograph suitable for publication. Winners also receive a school-year subscription to Freethought Today. Eligible non-winning entrants will be offered a freethought book or newspaper subscription.

Blanche Fearn was a Foundation activist and benefactor who, although a lifelong learner, never had the means to attend college. She protested prayers as a high school student in New York City in the 1920s.

Michael Hakeem was a professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who died at age 90 in 2006. Mike, the son of first-generation immigrants, was the first in his family to go to college and went on to earn a Ph.D. He influenced generations with his classes in critical thinking. A stalwart atheist, he was chair of the Foundation’s governing board for many years. The college competition, which has been offered as a memorial for several activist Foundation members over the last 30 years, is now being offered as a memorial to this Foundation activist, volunteer and benefactor.t

Freedom From Religion Foundation