Announcing 2006 Student Essay Contests

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, in announcing 2006 guidelines for both of its long-standing high school and college essay competitions, has doubled scholarship awards.

First place prizes are now $2,000, second place $1,000 and third place $500. Foundation members are asked to help publicize the competitions at their local public schools, colleges and universities. Handy guidelines, which can be photocopied or clipped and mailed, can be found on the inside back mailing wrapper. The guidelines are also posted online at

“A plethora of scholarships target religious students, but very few reward freethinking students. We consider our annual student scholarships one of the Foundation’s most important outreach activities,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker, Foundation co-presidents.

The Blanche Fearn Memorial Award for college-bound high-school seniors asks students to write on the timely topic of “Why ‘Intelligent Design’ (Creationism) Should Not Be Taught in Public Schools.”

Students may address this from a scientific, historic, or legal perspective, or include their own experiences encountering or debunking creationism. (For background, they may wish to consult Darwin, Scopes trial history, or the recent decision in Dover, Penn., by Judge John Jones III.)

High school essays of 3-4 typed, double-spaced pages and standard margins, with student’s own title, and a one-paragraph biography, should be postmarked by June 1, 2006. Winners will be announced in August 2006.

Currently enrolled college students competing for the Phyllis Stevenson Grams Memorial Award are asked to write about “Why I am an Atheist or Agnostic,” “Growing Up a Freethinker” or “Rejecting Religion.” 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.

The competition is limited to North American students or students enrolled in North American colleges or universities at least through December 2006.

College students should submit a 4-5 page essay (typed, standard margins, double-spaced), choosing their own title, and including a one-paragraph biography.

College essays should be postmarked no later than July 1, 2006. College winners will be announced in September 2006.

Students in both competitions should identify the college or university they will be or are attending, along with permanent and campus addresses, phone numbers and email (graduating seniors should also identify high school). Please staple. Do not include a resume. No e-mails or faxes accepted.

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. Eligible non-winning entrants will be offered a freethought book.

Freedom From Religion Foundation