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The 2016 Annual AU Student Essay Contest Is Here!

Send your submissions to Campus@au.org. See the flyer below for more info, or download a PDF version here.

Essay Topic

In 1802, Thomas Jefferson coined the phrase “wall of separation between church and state” when referring to the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment of the Constitution. This clause forbids the government from establishing an official religion, prohibits government actions that unduly favor one religion over another, and prohibits the government from unduly preferring religion over non-religion or non-religion over religion.

Write an essay that explains why the separation of church and state is integral to preserving religious freedom in America’s pluralistic society. Include at least one primary source to support your thesis. You may also reference current events, U.S. history, and personal experiences.

Deadline: March 1st, 2016


First Place $500

Second Place $250

Third Place $100

All entrants will receive a free year-long Americans United student membership.


  • This contest is open to all United States high-school seniors and undergraduate students
  • Past winners, finalists, employees and board members of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and members of their families are not eligible to participate


  • 750-1,000 Words
  • Double-spaced, Times New Roman
  • Essays must include in-text citations and a bibliography
  • Include a cover page with: full name, email address, postal address, grade level, school name and address, and name of faculty advisor that can verify the authenticity of the essay


  • Adherence to guidelines and carefully proofread
  • Articulate, creative, and tightly focused response that demonstrates a genuine grappling with the topic
  • Observation of rules for Standard English usage (grammar, punctuation, and mechanics) in writing
  • Well-researched with convincing arguments supported by specific examples


  • Email completed essays to campus@au.orgwith the subject line [Last Name], [Essay Contest Submission] by midnight of the contest deadline
  • Or mail completed essays to AmericansUnited for Separation of Church and State

Attn: Essay Contest Submission

1901 L Street NW, Suite 400

Washington, D.C. 20036