FFRF awards $9,500 to 2020 winning law student essayists


The Freedom From Religion Foundation is proud to disburse $9,500 in scholarship money to this year’s winners of the law student essay competition, the second such annual contest.

Law school students in the 2020 Cornelius Vanderbroek Memorial Essay Competition were asked to write a legal essay based on this prompt: “Are ‘No Aid’ Clauses Constitutional?” The question relates to a decision the U.S. Supreme Court will soon hand down in an important case involving the separation of state and church: Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. The court will shortly address whether the Montana Constitution’s “No Aid” to religion clause violates the Free Exercise Clause of the federal First Amendment. (Many other states have similar “No Aid” clauses that prohibit taxpayer money from going to religious schools.)

The students were required to explore one legal argument defending the constitutionality of Montana’s “No Aid” provision, or rebut one argument that the clause is unconstitutional. FFRF awarded three top prizes and one honorable mention. The winning essays will be reprinted in the upcoming June/July issue of FFRF’s newspaper, Freethought Today, and later go online.

The winners are listed below along with the college or university they will be attending and the award amount.

First place
Marc Mohan, Lewis & Clark Law School, $4,000.
Second place
Jessica Gaudette-Reed, University of Florida Levin College of Law, $3,000.
Third place
Libby Jacobson, Hamline School of Law, $2,000.
Honorable mention
Rory Brown, Northeastern University School of Law, $500.

FFRF has offered essay competitions to college students since 1979, high school students since 1994 and grad students since 2010. The law student contest debuted in 2019. The state/church watchdog congratulates the winners and appreciates the hard work put in by all the contestants.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national association with more than 32,000 members, founded nationally in 1978, which works to educate the public about nontheism, and to defend the constitutional principle of separation between state and church. The essay is named for and funded by a member who left a generous bequest.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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