Submissions are now being accepted for Americans United’s annual Student Essay Contest.

The contest is open to high school juniors and seniors. The deadline for submission is April 19, 2020.

This year, students are being asked to address the following topic: Religious freedom should be a shield that protects the rights of everyone to practice any faith or no faith at all, without harming others. But some politicians’ regressive agenda seeks to misuse religious freedom to justify discrimination against LGBTQ people, women, religious minorities and the nonreligious.

Recent ways we’ve seen it misused include: legislative efforts to turn the U.S. into an officially “Christian nation” and roll back positive social change by misusing religious freedom to discriminate; policies that allow health care workers to deny care to patients based on religious or moral objections, and allow employers and universities to use religion to deny employees and students access to birth control; and legislative efforts to divert public money away from public schools to fund religious education through private-school voucher schemes.

Why is the separation of religion and government important to you? (Your essay can, but doesn’t have to, include one of the issues mentioned above.) What have you or others in your community done to oppose threats to religious freedom? What more can be done?

Students who wish to enter should keep in mind the following:

• The contest is open to high school juniors and seniors in the Uni­ted States including the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories.

• The essay length should be between 750 and 1,000 words.

• Essays should be well-written, well-researched and should be the student’s original writing, supported by specific examples and/or properly cited sources where appropriate. Essays can reference current events, U.S. history, primary sources, personal experiences and information from

• Essays must be submitted no later than 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, April 19.

The first-place winner will receive $1,500, and the essay will be printed on AU’s website and in Church & State. The second-place winner will receive $1,000, and the essay will be printed on AU’s website. The third-place winner will receive $500, and the essay will be printed on AU’s website. 

For more information about the contest, visit: test.


Congress needs to hear from you!

Urge your legislators to co-sponsor the Do No Harm Act today.

The Do No Harm Act will help ensure that our laws are a shield to protect religious freedom and not used as a sword to harm others by undermining civil rights laws and denying access to health care.

Act Now