FFRF announces inaugural law student essay contest

Law Student Essay Graphic

The Freedom From Religion Foundation proudly unveils its debut essay contest for law school students.

Law students from all over the country are invited to submit an 850-1,000 word essay on “What's wrong with ‘Religious Exemption or Refusal’ laws?” The contest is awarding more than $10,000 in prize money, with $4,000 for first place and $3,000 for the second, all the way down to a sixth place $500 award. All eligible entrants will receive a full one-year complimentary student membership in FFRF, which includes a digital version of 10 issues of Freethought Today, FFRF's newspaper, which publishes winning student essays. The deadline is midnight of July 1. Students will be notified in September if they win.

FFRF has chosen the essay topic with great care for relevance and topicality. 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. Other states exempt health care workers or pharmacists on the basis of religion from providing contraceptive services and still others allow government employees who solemnize marriages to refuse to do so for same-sex couples.

Law students are being asked to 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. The essay should include some analysis of what’s generally wrong with any “religious exemption or refusal” proposal.

The essay contest is open to all ongoing students up to age 30 attending a North American law school. Students remain eligible to enter this contest if they graduate from law school by spring or summer of 2019, but not if they’ll be starting law school for the first time in the fall of 2019.

Entrants for the essay contest are asked to fill out an online form and attach the essay. Essay must be double-spaced, standard margins, font size of 11 to 14 point, and attached as a PDF. The name of the entrant and the title of the essay must be included on every page. Pages must be numbered, and word length indicated at end of the essay. Essay entrants should come up with their own essay title. 

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.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation looks forward to reading and absorbing analysis from the brightest legal minds in the country — and rewarding the best among them.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

FFRF has received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator

FFRF is a member of the Secular Coalition for America

FFRF privacy statement