Racial Equality

Attention, High School Juniors And Seniors: Raise Your Voice Through AU’s Student Essay Contest

  Alicia Johnson

The threat to church-state separation posed by those who continue to misuse religious freedom to undermine nondiscrimination laws is not lost on young people – and neither is the need to pass the Do No Harm Act, to ensure true religious freedom and freedom from discrimination for all.

That’s why the Do No Harm Act is the topic of this year’s Americans United Student Essay Contest. We’ve already received dozens of essays explaining how this important legislation would impact young people’s lives and their communities – but there’s still time to submit yours.

AU’s annual essay contest is one way we encourage young people to reflect on why religious freedom and the separation of religion and government are important to them and what’s at stake for religious freedom today.

This year, as we urge Congress to prioritize the Do No Harm Act, we’re also inviting students to reflect on how this legislation would help ensure religious freedom laws are a shield to protect the rights of everyone to practice any faith or no faith at all, so long as they do not harm others.

Are you – or do you know – a high school junior or senior who has ideas about the importance of separation of religion and government? We are accepting submissions to the 2021 Student Essay Contest now through April 19.

One of last year’s essay contest winners, Miles King, wrote that “representatives must never use their religious convictions to justify infringing on the rights of others.” He broke down the threat of state RFRAs and similar legislation that “use[s] ‘religious freedom’ as a guise to infringe on the rights of LGBTQ people, religious minorities, women and more.”

The Do No Harm Act would help right these wrongs, and this year’s contest invites high schoolers to reflect on the impact this legislation would have, weaving together personal experience and well-researched information on current and/or historical events.

The top three essay writers will receive prizes of $500-$1,500 and have their essays published on AU’s website. The first-place prize winner will also be published in Church & State magazine. (You can read 2020’s winning essay here.)

Help us spread the word and share this opportunity with a young person or educator you know today! You can share this link, post on Facebook or Twitter, or share this resource for educators who are leading conversations with their students about church-state separation.


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