The Freedom From Religion Foundation has honored student or youthful activism to promote freethought (atheism, agnosticism) or defend the constitutional principle of separation between state and church for many years. The typical annual award is a minimum $1,000 cash scholarship, although some awards for more extraordinary activism are higher. 

Scholarships are for activism related to freethought or the separation of state and church. Past recipients include students who have spoken up for and engaged in activism for secular principles, and often been considered controversial for doing so. 

Recipients have included plaintiffs in state/church lawsuits or those who have had to sue for their right not to stand or recite the religious Pledge of Allegiance. They have included student journalists whose pro-atheism or freethought articles have made waves or even been banned by their high school or college newspaper. FFRF has awarded students who were disciplined for dressing up like Jesus on “Fictional Character Day” or who have had to overcome censorship by a principal when wanting to start a freethought student club at their high school. Some have been “whistle-blowers” over public school teachers who promote fundamentalist Christianity or creationism. Other recipients have engaged in significant activism at the college level as secular leaders.

Over the years, individual freethought donors have periodically contributed funds for having a “strong backbone,” or to award a student who has put up with harassment or retaliation, or otherwise shows gumption. One sponsor has created the Robert G. Ingersoll Student Activist Award for a student whose activism carries on the tradition of this 19th century freethinker’s espousal of reason and secular values.

Students or those nominating them should not apply for a particular scholarship, but rather provide sufficient detail about the activism so that FFRF can make the determination. In some cases, FFRF has given a youth award to a young activist who is no longer in school. Please do not apply for a scholarship based solely on financial need or simply for being nonreligious. These are awards for actual activism, not a tuition relief scholarship. Freethinking students looking for extra support may wish to apply for FFRF’s several student essay competitions

Note: This form cannot save partially completed applications, so please have your materials ready before you begin.

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