Baptist Joint Committee For Religious Liberty Essay Contest


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The BJC is involved in ongoing education efforts through developing resources and by leading education programs on Capitol Hill for organizations and churches across the nation. We serve as a trusted resource for clergy and civic leaders on religious liberty and church-state issues.

The BJC’s educational efforts engage congressional staffers, think tanks, universities, law schools, seminaries, clergy and church congregations. Our Center for Religious Liberty allows us to host groups in our facility, as well as reach those who are not in the D.C. area through staff member visits and video technology. We encourage you to visit the BJC or bring the BJC to you to learn more about our work on the Hill and how you can get involved. Click here to read why students from the State University of New York (SUNY) come each semester.

The BJC offers a host of printed resources for anyone looking to understand religious liberty. We have an annual essay contest, year-round internship program, and awards to bestow upon individuals who make extraordinary contributions to promoting religious liberty. We also provide videos and podcasts to provide additional ways to engage with our work and share it with others.  

Our magazine, Report from the Capital, provides a helpful look at news and opinions on the church-state front. The magazine includes analysis by Executive Director Amanda Tyler and General Counsel Holly Hollman, as well as news summaries. The BJC provides information regularly about specific religious liberty matters, including issue summaries and advocacy guides. To stay on top of the latest news affecting religious liberty, follow our blog and subscribe to our newsletter and email updates.

Education is one of our primary focuses because we can’t do it all ourselves. We need colleagues and supporters advocating at the local level. The BJC can go to the Congress, the White House and the Supreme Court with our message, but in the final analysis, it’s the people that decide the issues. Congress votes and justices decide, but they are there because of the votes of the people, and we need a populace educated on religious liberty issues.

If you would like more information about the educational programs offered by the Baptist Joint Committee, please contact Charles Watson Jr., the BJC’s Associate Director of Education, at

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Religious Liberty Essay Scholarship Contest

Students can win up to $2,000 for college by writing an essay discussing whether public school calendars should accommodate religious holidays in the 2018 Religious Liberty Essay Scholarship Contest. To enter, students must write an 800-1,200 word essay responding to the following prompt:

In most public high schools, certain days are marked as religious holidays on the school calendar, and the schools are closed on those days.  As public schools become more diverse, some students’ religious holy day(s) are not days that the schools are closed, resulting in absences for those students.

In an essay, discuss whether public school calendars should accommodate religious holidays.

Consider how school administrators should determine if, or which, religious holy days are included in the school calendar, or if any school policies should be changed to better accommodate students’ religious exercise. Be sure your essay identifies how the First Amendment supports your position.

Click here to download and print the 2018 Religious Liberty Essay Scholarship Contest entry forms

Students should develop a point of view, demonstrate critical thinking and use appropriate examples, arguments and other evidence to support their position. Any high school student graduating in 2018 or 2019 is eligible to enter the contest. There is no religious requirement. Entries must be mailed and postmarked by March 9, 2018.

The grand prize is a $2,000 scholarship and a trip for two to Washington, D.C. Prizes of $1,000 for the second place winner and $500 for the third place winner are also available. Winners will be announced by the end of summer 2018.

The annual Religious Liberty Essay Scholarship Contest engages high school students in church-state issues by directing them to express a point of view on a religious liberty topic. Essays are judged on the depth of their content, the mastery of the topic, and the skill with which they are written. Students should develop a point of view on the issue and demonstrate critical thinking, using appropriate examples, reasons and other evidence to support their position. The annual contest is sponsored by the Religious Liberty Council of the Baptist Joint Committee.

For questions on the 2018 essay contest, read these FAQs or contact Charles Watson Jr. at or call 202-544-4226.

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