2019 High School Essay Contest

The Anne Arundel County Bar Foundation invites all high school students in Anne Arundel County to enter its annual high school essay contest. The contest is open to all public or private high school students in grades 9-12, and home-schooled students at corresponding grade levels.

The focus of this year’s contest is a current Supreme Court case (The American Legion v. American Humanist Association, Docket No. 17-1717) that will decide whether a government-funded display and maintenance of a 40-foot-tall cross-shaped World War I memorial placed at a public highway intersection violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment because of its relation to Christianity.

Prizes:       1st place:  $500       2nd place:  $250     3rd place:  $100
The winners will be honored at a special ceremony at the Circuit Court.  All participants will receive a certificate.  College admissions offices look favorably upon applications of students who have received writing awards.
How to Enter:
Write an essay on this topic:  How should the U.S. Supreme Court should rule on this case and why?
Students should submit an essay of up to 1,200 words on the stated topic (see details below). Entries should be double-spaced and either typewritten or printed using a computer word processor.
The essay must be accompanied by a cover sheet that includes the following information: the student’s name, address, phone number and e-mail address; school’s name (if applicable), address and phone number; and the name of the teacher sponsor (if applicable, or parent if home-schooled). All portions of the essay that are not expressly identified as quotations must be the original work product of the student submitting the essay.
Deadline for submissions:  April 26, 2019
Essays must be postmarked no later than April 26, 2019, and mailed to:  Anne Arundel County Bar Foundation, Essay Contest, P.O. Box 161, Annapolis, MD  21404. 
Essay Topic:
The case under consideration: The American Humanist Association (AHA), a non-profit organization whose mission is to ensure the separation of church and state, filed a lawsuit against the Maryland–National Capital Park and Planning Commission (the “Commission”) seeking the removal of a 40-ft, cross-shaped World War I monument, on property owned by the Maryland–National Capital Park and Planning Commission, a state entity. The AHA argued that the Commission violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause by funding the display and upkeep of the monument, which is known as the Peace Cross. The American Legion, the original owner of the property, entered the case to defend the cross.
The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of the Commission, holding that the Peace Cross was displayed and maintained for the secular reasons of honoring veterans and ensuring traffic safety. The AHA appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The Fourth Circuit held that the Commission violated the Establishment Clause because the Peace Cross’s primary purpose was to advance religion and encouraged the overlap between government and religion. The Commission and the American Legion asked the Supreme Court to review the 4th Circuit’s ruling. They warned that allowing the lower court’s decision to stand would endanger not only the Peace Cross, but other war memorials as well.

Resources to help you get started:

Case Information on Cornell Law School’s Supreme Court Bulletin

If you have questions about the contest, please contact us at 410-222-6860 or info@aabar.org.