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Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

FFRF’s 2021 law student essay contest winners

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is proud to announce the four winners of the Cornelius Vanderbroek Memorial Essay Competition for Law Students.

FFRF paid out a total of $9,500 to the winners of this year’s contest.

Law school students were asked to write on the topic of “Why ‘history’ shouldn’t justify violations of the separation between state and church.”

The topic explores a change in Supreme Court interpretation that has become central to state/church litigation in recent years. In Town of Greece v. Galloway, the Supreme Court wrote that “the Establishment Clause must be interpreted ‘by reference to historical practices and understandings.’” In the wake of that decision, courts have struggled to define the exact contours of the historical considerations at play, with some courts treating Galloway as announcing a broadly applicable “history test,” while others have continued to apply more traditional Establishment Clause tests.

Essayists were to identify the dangers in interpreting Galloway as establishing a broadly applicable “history test” and, with citation to at least two post-Galloway cases, from any courts, define the outer boundaries where a history test should be applied.

For ease of reading, the essays appearing in this issue do not include the footnotes and citations that were included in the authors’ submissions.

Winners are listed below and include the law school they are attending and the award amount.

First Place: Ty Jameson, Wake Forest University School of Law, $4,000.

Second Place: Jimmy Morrissey, University of Wisconsin Law School, $3,000.

Third Place: Jordan Glassman, University of North Carolina Law School, $2,000.

Honorable Mention: Ryan Shaner, Chicago Kent College of Law, $500.

FFRF has offered essay competitions to college students since 1979, high school students since 1994 and grad students since 2010. The law school contest began in 2019.

Law student essay contest