VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 11/7/14)—American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) encourages entries to the 2015 Religious Liberty Essay Scholarship Contest, sponsored by the Religious Liberty Council of the Baptist Joint Committee (BJC). High school juniors and seniors can win up to $2,000 for college by writing an essay examining an employer’s ability to dictate an employee’s attire, including religious apparel that an employee requests to wear on the job.
Each year, the contest engages high school students in church-state issues by directing them to express a point of view on a religious liberty topic. The grand prize is $2,000 and a trip for two to Washington, D.C. Second prize is $1,000, and third prize is $250.
High school students in the graduating classes of 2015 and 2016 can enter the contest by writing an essay between 800-1,200 words addressing the following:
Under federal law, employers cannot discriminate on the basis of religion—and other protected categories—when hiring, if they have 15 or more employees. A conflict can arise when an employer refuses to allow an employee to wear religious clothing at work or refuses to hire someone because of such attire.
For example, clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch claimed its “look policy” allowed it to not hire a Muslim woman who wanted to wear a hijab—or head scarf—on the sales floor.
In an essay, discuss whether and to what extent an employer should be able to dictate an employee’s attire—such as denying an employee’s request to wear religious garb.
Should the image or brand the employer portrays with a dress code trump the employee’s religious expression? What are the broader implications for religious liberty?
“Our topic for 2015 provides students a unique opportunity to explore a religious liberty conflict that could be as close as their local mall,” said Charles Watson Jr., the BJC’s Education and Outreach specialist. “We want students to critically examine situations where religious rights and employment rules collide and consider that in the context of what it means to have true religious liberty in our country.”
Entries must be postmarked by March 6, 2015, to be eligible. Click here to download contest forms and complete details.
Winners will be announced in summer 2015, and the grand prize winner will be recognized at the BJC board meeting in Washington, D.C., in October 2015.
Essays will be judged on depth of content, mastery of the topic and 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.
Visit www.BJConline.org/contest for complete contest rules. If you have questions, contact Watson at 202-544-4226 or by email at cwatson@BJConline.org.
The Baptist Joint Committee is a 78-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based religious liberty organization that works to defend and extend God-given religious liberty for all, bringing a uniquely Baptist witness to the principle that religion must be freely exercised, neither advanced nor inhibited by government.
American Baptist Home Mission Societies—the domestic mission arm of American Baptist Churches USA—ministers as the caring heart and serving hands of Jesus Christ across the United States and Puerto Rico through a multitude of initiatives that focus on discipleship, community and justice.
American Baptist Churches is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with over 5,200 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.