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Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

2022 grad student essay contest honorable mentions

Grace Stuewe
Holly Ardern
Sarah Holbrook
Maria Lopez Duarte
Krisana Goel
Joanna Mendoza
Stephanie Petros
Skylah Sanchez

Catholicism identifies contraception as a sin, but it is women’s health care.

If women had access to contraception on a global scale, many economists suggest it may even eradicate poverty. Yet, the influence of religion inhibits its use, holding women hostage to limited health and societal opportunities. 

Natasha Alvarado, 30, is from Westfield, N.J., and attends CUNY School of Law.


Using religious doctrine to govern society is a mistake the United States should not be willing to make. There is no reasonable excuse to use the Christian bible as the benchmark for moral purity, or the rulebook for human conduct.

Religion’s role in society has proven to be detrimental and, as long as its perpetuation is tolerated, it will continue to obstruct progress. 

Holly Ardern, 25, is from Brooklyn, N.Y., and attends CUNY-College of Staten Island.


As a nonreligious woman, several questions come to mind: 

Why is the right to choose over my body being discussed with arguments based on bible quotes? 

Why should health issues be decided by a “creator” and not by a doctor? 

Shouldn’t the state and laws be separated from the church? 

Still, as rational individuals, our responsibility is to fight for a world in which no one is subject to others’ unshared beliefs. 

Maria Lopez Duarte, 27, lives in Marianna, Fla., and attends the University of Florida.


In the argument against abortions, scripture is quoted rather than science. One religious group’s point of views should not dictate science or the laws in the country. The biggest issue is that there is not a separation of church and state in the current justice system.

Krisana Goel, 21, is from Clarksville, Md., and attends Fordham University School of Law.


Prayers disguise inaction and gain impunity from any further thought on the matter of a loved one’s death. “Heaven” provides a bastardized ending summarizing a person’s complex life into a fantastical fairytale.


Sarah Holbrook, 27, lives in Mount Desert, Maine, and attends the University of Maine.

I have never been so ashamed of being an American citizen until today. It’s days like this remind me of why religion has never been the answer, especially when it comes to my body rights as a woman. Now, history is going to repeat itself and so many more women are going to suffer because of the Supreme Court. 


Andrea Lopez, 23, lives in Las Vegas and attends the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. 

It would be naive to believe that the Supreme Court would stop just at the reversal of constitutional abortion rights. There is already word of undoing the advance of rights of homosexual identifying people. These are most clearly decisions done with religion in mind, and it is unfair to implement policies that are one-track-minded in this melting pot of a country. The answer to improving the quality of life for all does not lie with religion, it lies with empathy.


Joanna Mendoza, 19, is from Pearland, Texas, and attends the University of Chicago.

When seeking answers for complex problems such as unplanned pregnancy, religion cannot be the sole lens through which possible solutions are viewed. All possibilities must be considered, and those that are backed by quality research should be chosen. Religion must be set aside, and the most impactful solution chosen for the good of all. 


Stephanie Petros, 25, lives in Oneida, N.Y., and attends SUNY Polytechnic Institute. 

One major international issue where religion is the problem and not the solution is the spread of HIV and AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. Religious organizations play a central role in the HIV/AIDS epidemic because they have promulgated inaccurate information, preached HIV-related stigmas and ignored the problem in these communities. One solution to this problem is for government organizations to cut funding to faith-based organizations that attack condoms and testing.


Skylah Sanchez, 27, lives in Queens, N.Y., and attends CUNY School of Law. 

The decision to overturn Roe v. Wade toes the line of Christian fascism, and it’s about time we stop turning to a centuries-old book which has been retranslated countless times to determine what women and those assigned female at birth should and should not do with their bodies. We need to listen to the science. 

To dictate what a woman can and cannot do with her body on the basis of your religion is an absurd abuse of power.


Grace Stuewe, 22, is originally from the Chicago area, and attends Colorado State University.

The fact that most pro-life supporters are Christian is beyond mere coincidence, especially when studies show that the more religious people are, the more likely they will have conservative right-wing political beliefs.

Religion divides insiders from outsiders. It promotes tribalism and competition with a mentality that says, “I’m right, therefore you must be wrong, and only I can be right.” 

Kaine Wofford, 25, is from Upland, Calif., and attends Georgetown Law School.