We're proud to announce the winners of the 2021 AU Student Essay Contest!

High school juniors and seniors were asked to reflect on the Do No Harm Act, an important piece of federal legislation that would ensure religious freedom for all.


Michael Hallinan

Michael Hallinan

First place, $1,500 prize

Lakewood High School, Colorado

"The Do No Harm Act would bring about an immeasurable amount of safety, security and, above all, hope. People of different backgrounds, whether it’s me, Pazko, or any other individual would no longer have to fear for their ability to foster and adopt because of their difference in sexual orientation or their religious background."

Read Michael's essay here. Michael also was featured in the September 2021 issue of AU’s Church & State magazine – read more about him here!

Sarah Geist

Second place, $1,000 prize

San Diego, California

"I support the Do No Harm Act as an American and as a human being because it will minimize the harm to the most vulnerable and marginalized members of our society; I support it as a Christian because it will promote the true values and principles of my faith."

Read Sarah's essay here.

Sarah Geist

Oliver Petersen

Oliver Petersen

Third place, $500 prize

School Without Walls High School, Washington, D.C.

"The Do No Harm Act would be monumental for the protection of transgender rights as they relate to church and state separation. Over the years, we’ve seen people attempt to and successfully use the freedom of religion as a front to openly push hateful and discriminatory legislation, which must come to an end."

Read Oliver's essay here.


We thank all of the high school students who participated in this year's essay contest. Stay tuned for information about the 2022 AU Student Essay Contest; check back here.