FFRF announces $45K prize money in four 2023 student essay contests

2023 Essay Contest

The Freedom From Religion Foundation announces its 2023 essay competitions for freethinking students — offering more than $45,000 in total scholarships.

Each of these four contests has 10 top prizes: First place — $3,500; second place — $3,000; third place — $2,500; fourth place — $2,000; fifth place — $1,500; sixth place — $1,000; seventh place — $750; eighth place — $500; ninth place — $400; and 10th place — $300. FFRF also offers optional honorable mentions of $200.

David Hudak Memorial Contest for Black, Indigenous and Students of Color
Black, Indigenous and Students of Color ages 17–21 (college-bound high school seniors to currently enrolled college students) are asked to write on this topic: “Glad to be godless.”

Please write a first-person essay explaining your personal journey to becoming a nonbeliever (or about your experiences as a lifelong nonbeliever), including any challenges you’ve faced and why you’re “glad to be godless.” Discuss the personal advantage to individuals to be free from religion. You may wish to analyze how the use of reason over faith can also be an advantage for BIPOC communities and for social policies.

This contest is offered to provide additional support and acknowledgment for freethinking students of color, as a minority within a minority. Other FFRF student contests are open to all students. Students eligible for more than one essay contest may only enter one contest per year.

Word limit: 350–500. Deadline: June 1.

William J. Schulz Memorial Essay Contest for College-Bound High School Seniors
High school seniors graduating this spring and attending college in the fall are asked to write on the topic of “Why I’m Proudly a Gen Z ‘None.’”

Up to 48 percent of Gen Z identifies as religiously unaffiliated, with at least 17 percent identifying specifically as atheist or agnostic. You are part of the least religious generation in U.S. history! Describe your experiences growing up or becoming a “None,” explain why you reject religion, and how the growth of the unaffiliated in the United States is a positive development for progress.

Word limit: 350–500. Deadline: June 1.

Kenneth L. Proulx Memorial Essay Contest for Ongoing College Students
Currently enrolled college students (up to age 24) may write on: “What I would tell Marjorie Taylor Greene about the harm of Christian nationalism.”

Greene became the first member of Congress to identify as a “Christian nationalist,” and has openly urged her party to become the “party of Christian nationalism.” Write a rebuttal of Christian nationalism in the form of a letter addressed to Rep. Greene. Explain why her espousal of Christian nationalism as an elected official is antithetical to secular American principles. Please include at least a brief definition of what Christian nationalism is and how it jeopardizes you as a nonbeliever and other nonbelievers and non-Christians. Please do not write a partisan or political essay, but rather make the case against Christian nationalism.

The $1,000 prize in the ongoing college competition is now being generously endowed by actor and FFRF Lifetime Member Madison Arnold. Mr. Arnold has given a $30,000 endowment as a living bequest, what he calls a “pre-quest.”

Word limit: 450–650. Deadline: June 1.

Cornelius Vander Broek Essay Contest for Graduate/“Older” Students
Graduate students (through age 30) and “older” undergrads (ages 25–30) are asked to write on the topic: “Is secularism the ‘savior’ of American democracy?”

Is the fate of U.S. democracy becoming a face-off between the “Nones” (atheists, agnostics and “nothings in particular”) with their support of secular government, and Christian nationalists? Please include at least a brief definition of what Christian nationalism means. Pick one or two controversies or issues in which Christian nationalists are denying or threatening rights or reforms in America (whether state/church separation, abortion or LGBTQ rights, book banning, voting, vaccination policies, climate change remediation, etc.). Explain how Christian nationalist actions are threatening these rights or reforms (and how you may be personally affected). Then muster your best arguments about how and why the secular movement can take strategic action to defend secular democracy.

Word limit: 550–750. Deadline: June 1.

Students are required to submit their essay via the online application, and should carefully review all contest rules. The contests cater to students in different age/class ranges. Students may only enter one FFRF contest annually and may not enter a contest if they have previously won an award in that particular contest. All eligible entrants will receive a digital year-long student membership in FFRF. Those who do not win are offered an additional thank you gift.

Visit ffrf.us/essays to review prompts, rules and find the links to the online applications.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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