Witnesses to Freedom 

USCCB Religious Liberty Essay Contest Rules

Witnesses to Freedom USCCB Religious Liberty Essay Contest

  1. The USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty, in collaboration with the Secretariat of Catholic Education and Our Sunday Visitor Institute, is hosting a religious liberty essay contest for high school juniors and seniors.
  2. The Witnesses to Freedom Religious Liberty Essay Contest (hereinafter, the “Contest”), requires participants to share a story about a witness to religious freedom.  Participants should choose one person (or group, such as an organization or community) who is important in the story of religious freedom.
  3. By submitting an entry to the Contest, the entrant agrees to abide by all Contest rules.
    An entry is defined as any essay submitted to the Contest for evaluation by the judges.

Eligibility criteria.
Failure to abide by the following rules may make the applicant subject to disqualification.

  1. Immediate family or household members of any employee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (hereinafter, “USCCB” or “the Conference”), Our Sunday Visitor (hereinafter, “OSV”), or any Judge of the Contest are ineligible to enter the Contest and are hereby disqualified.
  2. Accommodation. If a participant has a medical condition that makes it difficult to meet the contest’s eligibility requirements, please contact the Contest coordinators via email at ReligiousLibertyEssay@usccb.org so that we can determine whether some reasonable accommodation is possible that will allow the contestant to participate.  Please entitle the email Accommodation Request.
  3. The Contest is open to all High School Juniors and Seniors.
    A High School Junior is a student enrolled in the 11th grade of high school or its equivalent at the time his or her essay is submitted.
    A High School Senior is a student enrolled in the 12th grade or its equivalent at the time his or her essay is submitted.
    Nothing in these rules shall be taken to exclude homeschooled students from submitting an entry into the competition.
  4. No entry fee is required. Upon submission, each entrant is providing USCCB with the copyright of the submitted essay. USCCB is permitted to use and publish the essay. Entrants agree to hold harmless and defend the Conference from any and all liability that may arise in connection with participation in the Contest. Entrants agree that any submission has not been, and will not be, submitted to any other person or entity for publication.
  5. Essays should be a work of prose of approximately 1,100 words. 
  6. All submissions should be accompanied by bibliography used in the essay. The bibliography does not count toward the word count. Any reference style (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.) is acceptable if it is consistent throughout the document. Failure to include a bibliography with each submission may make the submission subject to disqualification.

Submission Style Guides.

  1. Essays should use 12-point font. It is up to the participant’s discretion which style font to use, but Times New Roman or Arial is preferred.
  2. Essays should preferably be type-written and submitted in either .doc, .docx, or .pdf formats.
  3. Submissions should separately include the author’s legal name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, and approximate word count, to facilitate fair, and anonymous judging.
  4. Entries should be double-spaced and must include the title and page number on each page, but not the author’s name. 
  5. If possible, each submission should be accompanied by a signed copy of the Consent Form from the entrant or, if the entrant is under 18 years of age, a parent or legal guardian.

Submissions should be sent via email to ReligiousLibertyEssay@usccb.org.

All entries must be original works by the entrant, in English. Plagiarism, which includes the use of third-party essays, opinions, publications, or any sort of intellectual property without the proper attribution or citation, will result in disqualification. Entries may not have been previously published or submitted for publication in any sort of media.

We accept only entries that do not require a delivery signature for us to receive them.

There shall be three cash prizes: a First Prize of $2,000, a Second Prize of $1,000, and a Third Prize of $500, in US dollars. These prizes are intended to be used for educational purposes and so that the winners can continue pursuing their studies. These funds are intended to be used to cover tuition and fees required to enroll at or attend an eligible educational institution; or to help cover course-related educational expenses, such as fees, books, equipment, and room and board at an educational institution.

Essays must be submitted on or before 11:59 p.m. EDT on March 29, 2024 (the “Deadline”). 

Number of Entries.
Each entrant may submit only one essay

Revisions of Submissions.
No revisions to an essay are accepted after an essay has been submitted.

  1. Notwithstanding Paragraph 10, in the spirit of fairness, Contestants that submitted their entry prior to the publication of these Rules may be afforded the opportunity to make their submission compliant with these rules. 
  2. Deadline. Contestants who previously submitted their essays have until the Deadline to amend their previous entry. 
  3. Corrections. Contestants who submitted their essays prior to the publication of the rules can submit one (1) amended entry.
  4. Publication of Rules. These rules were published on October 19, 2022. Entries submitted prior to October 19, 2022 may benefit from these subsections.

Entries will be judged by a panel of judges chosen by the USCCB. The choice of judges is wholly within the discretion of the USCCB.  The decisions of the judges are their own and are final and binding. No appeal may be taken from a judge’s decision and any such attempted
appeal is grounds for automatic disqualification from the Contest.  Essays will be judged based on their originality, persuasiveness, historical accuracy, and possible other grounds to be determined by the empaneled judges.

Winner Announcement.
Winners will be announced by May 31, 2024.

Winners will be individually notified of the results by phone, mail, or e-mail.

Tax Consequences.
Cash prizes may have tax consequences for the selected contestant. The Conference will not withhold any tax from the price earnings. Contestants should speak with a tax advisor about how the earnings may impact their taxes. 

Amendment to Rules.
The Conference reserves the right to amend, change or modify the rules of the Contest in its sole discretion. Any changes or modification will be effective immediately upon posting the revisions on the Contest site, and Contestants waive any right you may have to receive specific notice of such changes or modifications.

This Contest is void where prohibited by law.