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Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Grad/‘older’ students essay contest winners

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is proud to announce the 19 winners of the Brian Bolton Essay Contest for Graduate/“Older” Students. FFRF has paid out a total of $17,850 in award money to this year’s contest winners.

Graduate students up to age 30 or undergrad students ages 25-30 were asked to write a persuasive essay that uses at least one biblical passage to show how its influence continues to cause harm today to individuals, civil liberties or society in general. In an overview of all the entries received, the students selected 37 different verses from 15 books in the bible. The most-used verse in these essays (written about by four students) was Romans 13:1 — “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”

This contest is generously and singlehandedly endowed by Lifetime Member Brian Bolton, a retired psychologist, humanist minister and professor emeritus at the University of Arkansas. Bolton is also underwriting FFRF’s Bible Accountability Project to call attention to the continuing harm of the bible to society.

FFRF thanks Dean and Dorea Schramm of Florida for providing a $100 bonus to students who are members of a secular group, student club or Secular Student Alliance. The total of $17,850 reflects those bonuses.

FFRF also thanks “Director of First Impressions” Lisa Treu for managing the details of the essay contests. And we couldn’t judge these competitions without help from our “faithful faithless” volunteers and staff members, including Don Ardell, Linda Aten, Dan Barker, Bill Dunn, Annie Laurie Gaylor, Dan Kettner, Katya Maes, Gloria Marquadt, Dave Petrashek and PJ Slinger.

FFRF has offered essay competitions to college students since 1979, high school students since 1994, grad and older students since 2010 and one geared specifically for students of color since 2016. A fifth contest for law school students debuts this year.

Winners, their ages, the colleges or universities they are attending and the award amounts are listed below. The winning essays are reprinted or excerpted in this issue.

First place

Skylar Christensen, 28, University of
Utah, $3,500.

Second place

Barbara Alvarez, 30, University of
Wisconsin-Madison, $3,100.

Third place

Joseph Sankowski, 27, University of
Toledo, $2,500.

Fourth place

Danyka J. Morgan, 25, College of
Western Idaho, $2,000.

Fifth place

Angela Wu, 23, University of
Pennsylvania Law School, $1,600.

Sixth place

Benjamin Stokes, 29, George
Washington University, $1,000.

Seventh place

Meagan McLendon, 28, University of
North Texas, $750.

Eighth place

Alexis Muschal, 29, Boston University-
Grad School of Medicine, $500.

Ninth place

Neil A. Heacox, 29, Cal Poly Pomona,

Tenth place (tie)

Sam Hyde, 26, University of Florida-
Levin College of Law, $300.

Tenth place (tie)

Jonathan Ortiz, 22, University of
Florida, $300.

Honorable mentions ($200 each)

James Bingaman, 26, University of

Kristina M. Lee, 28, Colorado State.

Amber Osborn, 29, Butler Community

Miranda Percy, 30, Texas Tech.

Chelsea Robinson, 30, University of
Southern California.

Samaya Shuput, 29, Roseman

Amber Wright, 26, The New School.