FFRF announces three 2012 student scholarship contests

Topics, rules and deadlines have been announced for FFRF’s 2012 high school, college and graduate/mature student essay scholarship competitions.

FFRF, an educational state-church watchdog that has 17,500 members nationwide, has offered essay competitions to college students since 1979. In 1994, FFRF added a separate contest for college-bound high school seniors. FFRF debuted its first “graduate/mature students over age 25” competition in 2010.

This year the awards increase to $3,000 for the first-place essay, a $2,000 cash scholarship for second place, $1,000 for third place, $500 for fourth place and $300 for a newly offered fifth place. Several $200 “honorable mentions” are awarded at judges’ discretion.

FFRF members are asked to publicize the essay competitions to their local high schools, colleges and universities.

Herbert Bushong High School Senior Essay Competition

This competition is endowed by Texas FFRF member Herbert Bushong, a nonagenarian with an interest in rewarding freethinking students. High school seniors in North America who are college-bound in fall 2012 are eligible.

"Describe a moment when you stood up for freethought and/or that made you proud to be a freethinker." A freethinker is “one who forms his or her opinion about religion based on reason, rather than faith, tradition or authority.” Maybe you had a moment, experience or “epiphany” that led to or affirmed your rejection of religion. Perhaps you stood up for freethought or spoke out against the encroachment of religion at school events, in government, in the classroom or in your family. Use one such moment to illustrate why you are a freethinker.

Essays should be 500 to 700 words. Deadline: June 1, 2012. Winners will be announced in August. Other details and requirements.

Michael Hakeem Memorial College Essay Competition

The late Michael Hakeem, a sociology professor, was an FFRF officer and active atheist known by generations of University of Wisconsin-Madison students for fine-tuning their reasoning abilities. The competition is open to students currently enrolled in North American colleges or universities at least through December 2012. Note: The scholarship is limited to those under age 25. If you are 25 or older or a graduate student, please enter FFRF’s competition for grad/mature students (below). College-bound high school seniors enter FFRF’s high school competition.

The topic of this year’s college essay competition: “Why I Am an Out of the Closet Atheist (Freethinker, etc.).” In honor of FFRF’s “Out of the Closet” campaign, write an essay on why you are “out” as a nonbeliever and think others should be, too. Use a personal (first-person) approach. Experiences with being a “heretic” in a religion-drenched society and describing your “coming out” may be included. You may wish to employ your best arguments for rejecting religious belief.

College students should submit an essay of 750 to 900 words. Deadline: June 15, 2012. Winners will be announced by September. Other details and requirements.

Brian Bolton Graduate/Mature Student Essay Competition

The competition is endowed by Brian Bolton, an FFRF Lifetime Member who is a retired psychologist, humanist minister and university professor emeritus at the University of Arkansas. Graduate students, or currently enrolled college students age 25 or older, who are enrolled in a North American college or university through at least December 2012, are eligible.

The topic is: “Why God and Politics/Government Are a Dangerous Mix ­— Especially In an Election Year.” Write a persuasive essay about the dangers of religion and politics/government mixing in this election year. Please analyze current examples of religious pandering, church politicking or political religious litmus tests that concern you and threaten the Establishment Clause. You may wish to use examples of the harm created by religion in politics and government from a personal, legal, topical and/or historical perspective.

The entrant should submit a 800- to 1,000-word essay. Deadline: July 15, 2012. Winners will be announced by September. Further details and requirements.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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