Festival For Freedom

First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

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Essay Contest Winners Announced

Festival for Freedom announces Essay Contest Winners

Festival for Freedom has announced the winners of $1600 in prizes in its first essay contest.  The contest was open to high school seniors in Western New York’s area codes 716 and 585, plus selected other counties.  The subject, about which entrants submitted a 700-1000 word essay, was:

“Freedom of Conscience is Essential to all Freedoms, Especially the Freedom of Religion” 

The contest was announced on this website www.FestivalforFreedom.com and a mailing announcing the contest and its entry rules was sent to 261 High School principals in Western New York.  All known public and private schools were contacted, and the information also made available to home schools where they could be identified.  Announcements were sent to more than 40 newspapers and radio stations, including The Station of the Cross Catholic Radio, which provided frequent spot announcements for several weeks leading up to the closing date of the contest.  Students of any faith, or of no faith, were welcome to participate.  In some cases, individual entries were received; and in some cases multiple entries were received from a class in which students were encouraged by their teachers to enter.

Awards:  A committee of four judges read the essays and chose the following four winners, and two runners up for honorable mention:

GOLD:  First Prize $1000 to Emily Sullivan of Cleveland Hills High School in Cheektowaga, who wrote:  “The freedom of conscience is the right to follow and to hold true to one’s own beliefs and morals.”

SILVER (TIE):  Second Prize of $500 to be split between Morgan Seeley of Bradford Central School in Bradford, who wrote:  “To reach an opinion, one thinks with one’s mind.  To reach a conclusion of conscience, one thinks with one’s soul,” and Bethany Lynn Steele of Frewsburg High School in Frewsburg, who wrote:  While government protects the right for an individual to practice his or her faith, they should, also, not force them to promote programs they don’t believe in.”

BRONZE:  Third Prize $100 to Nellie Owens of Cato-Meridian High School in Cato, who wrote:  “Without the ability to do what someone believes is the right thing, the individual, in truth, does not have the freedom to answer to their conscience and therefore is deprived from being able to practice their religion.”

Receiving Honorable Mention were: 

Ben Drexler of Aquinas Institute in Rochester, who wrote:  “Freedom of Conscience allows citizens of the United States to work towards the common good of the people….”

Joseph Saltarelli of Cardinal O’Hara High School in Tonowanda, who wrote:  “If choices are what make us, then conscience is the self-learned governance of those choices….  Conscience is … the workable substance of our character.”

Judges’ Review

The judges commented on the diligence with which many entrants researched the subject, and the unique views by which they expressed themselves.  Many of the entrants demonstrated a keen understanding of the difference between conscience and opinion.

The judges expressed their delight that so many of the entrants understood that Freedom of Conscience, which underpins and is essential to the Freedom of Religion, is a freedom which comes from God, and not from government.  But, accordingly, the students also expressed the understanding that it is the responsibility of government, enshrined in the Bill of Rights, to protect those God-given freedoms. 

The judges were also impressed at the wide ranging ability of the students to quote from Madison to Mahatma Gandhi, from Pinocchio to Popes, from Lincoln to Locke, as well as references to The Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, the UN’s Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Star Spangled Banner.  Their examples were as wide ranging as Lord Baltimore’s Toleration Act, the Five Pillars of Islam, Nordquist’s Safir-Whorf Hypothesis, the impact of conscientious objection, the Holocaust, and the abortion-subsidizing Obamacare, with its HHS Mandate.

There were only two areas where the judges noted their desire to see more clarity in some of the submissions.  One was around the issue of toleration and the obligation to be tolerant and respectful of people, but not to compromise one’s own conscience by tolerance of doctrines, beliefs or opinions which violate that individual’s own conscience.  The other area which the judges felt needs a deeper understanding is when the exercise of individual conscience requires civil disobedience, the revolutionary basis upon which the United States was founded.  Perhaps that subject might even become the opportunity for a future essay contest, the judges speculated.

The Festival for Freedom notes with appreciation the efforts of all entrants, and the support of their teachers, principals and families in generating submissions for this contest, which illustrates the encouraging result that an understanding of conscience is alive and well among the young adults on the brink of voting.                                                                      

2012 Essay Contest Deadline is Now Expired

No more submissions will be accepted.  Entry rules and Entry forms have been removed from this site.  Thank you for participating.  Future announcements on winners will be posted here.

Sincerely, Festival for Freedom

Announcing: NEW Essay Contest with $1000 1st Prize


For High School Seniors in Western NYS

Prizes:  1st prize $1000; 2nd prize $500; 3rd prize $100

Submission Deadline: Columbus Day, October 8th, 2012

Prizes to be awarded by the Festival for Freedom under the Rules established for this contest based on evaluation and decision by a panel of judges of the essays submitted on the subject of:

“Freedom of Conscience is Essential to all Freedoms,

Especially the Freedom of Religion”


  1. Essays must be in English and submitted electronically and digitally (e.g. not a pdf or fax, scan) to info@FestivalforFreedom.com and have a word count between 700 and 1000 words, and double spaced.  Word count is subject to verification by the receiving WORD document program.  Title and subtitles will be included in the word count.  Entrant’s name and school should be at the end of the essay but will not be shown to the judges prior to a final decision, and not included in the word count.
  2. No more than 150 words may be quotations, and all quotations must be within quotes     (“ ”) and each source identified.  Any quotations not identified in quotation marks and with attribution will invalidate an entry.
  3. Although Freedom of Conscience is the subject, especially as it applies to Freedom of Religion under the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, entrant may be of any Faith, or no Faith.  The contest is limited to U.S. Citizens or those already in the process of becoming U.S. Citizens.
  4. At a minimum, entrant is expected to identify and describe Freedom of Conscience and how it differs from opinion, and how the concept of conscience applies to decisions related to Freedom of Religion.  Other Freedoms may also be included if space allows.
  5. Among the factors to be considered by judges will be lucidity of thought, applicability to current events, depth of understanding, value of insights presented, basic application of grammar and spelling, and content organization.  An entrant may seek review and minimal input from others, but must certify that the final work submitted is his or her own creation.
  6. Contest is open to all High School seniors (public, private or home school) in Western New York who reside within or attend school within telephone area codes 716 or 585, or within the following counties:   Cayuga, Chemung, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga, Tompkins, Wayne or Yates.  No others areas may enter.
  7. Winners (but only winners) will also be required to document their place of residence, their high school, and their grade level, and to provide a valid social security number for tax reporting purposes.  Any winner is responsible for all taxes on any award received.
  8. Only one entry per person may be submitted and the essay must be previously unpublished.  There is no limit on the number of entries per school. Tandem essays or essays by a team are not permitted.
  9. Decision of the panel of judges will be based on weighted factors and is binding and not subject to appeal.  Judges may set additional criteria.  In the sole decision of the judges, prizes may be split among entrants in case of ties, but not split among more than three entrants per prize.
  10. Winners must agree to have their names and likenesses used in news reports regarding this contest and, if invited, to give one public reading of the winning essay, provided their reasonable expenses are reimbursed.
  11. All entrants must agree that the website www.FestivalforFreedom.com may publish any or all essays, in the sole judgment of website administration, whether or not such essay receives an award.  Nevertheless, ownership of the essay submitted shall remain with the entrant for such other use as he or she deems fit.  Winners and their schools may also publicize their awards.  Certification of any award will be given at no charge if requested for valid reasons such as employment or college applications.
  12. All entries must be accompanied by an e-mailed entry form, shown on page 2 of this contest invitation.  Entrant’s signature is required but, if unable to submit a signature electronically, it may be sent by scan, fax or pdf, or mailed to Festival for Freedom, PO Box 196, Canandaigua, NY 14424.  The essay, however, must be sent digitally.  Contest management has no obligation to contact anyone whose submission is erroneous or incomplete, or to acknowledge any submission, and may waive or interpret any rule in its sole discretion.  Festival for Freedom, its members, organizers, website management and judges are not responsible for any error in these printed materials, or for any error made in announcements or news or conduct of this contest.  Contestants should continue to check www.FestivalforFreedom.com website for any late-breaking announcements or corrections or adjustments or clarifications in contest rules.

See next page for the required Contest Entry Form.

Contest Entry Form (see Rules above)

 Contest Entry Form

(Please print clearly or type) 

Entrant’s Name _______________________________________________________________________

Address _____________________________________________________________________________

City / Town _______________________________________  Zip Code __________________________

County____________________________________   (all applicants)

Phone Number ___________________________   E-mail Address ______________________________


School Name _________________________________________________________________________

School Address  _______________________________________________________________________

School City/Town ___________________________________ Zip Code __________________________

County_____________________________________   (all applicants)

School Phone Number _________________ School Website (if applicable) ________________________

 I certify

  • that I am a high school senior at the school shown above, and
  • that I am a U.S. Citizen, or check here if presently seeking citizenship:  ____ , and
  • that I live or attend school in telephone area code 716 or 585, or in one of the following counties:  Cayuga, Chemung, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga, Tompkins, Wayne or Yates,
  • that the essay I am submitting is completely my own original work and
  • that my submission is and will be within all the rules of this contest, and
  • that it is the only essay I am submitting, and
  • that it is previously unpublished. 

Whether or not I am a winner, I hereby give Festival for Freedom the right to use this essay on their website provided I am named as the author.  I have read all the rules and I know of no reason I am not in conformance with all the rules of this contest.  If I am a winner I agree to supply my social security number for tax reporting purposes before collecting any award, and to be responsible for any taxes due as a result of such award. 

Signed _______________________________        Name Printed:  ____________________________

Date   ________________________

Note:  Essay must be sent digitally to info@FestivalforFreedom.com  

The signed Contest Entry Form and the essay must both be received on or before October 8, 2012.


Follow-up FFF Activities and Exchange

As the prior post stated (see below),  The Festival for Freedom was just the beginning, not the end.  The FFF was in some ways like a retreat, at which we learned, grew and discerned what God is calling us to do, either individually or in a group, focused especially on protecting and preserving our Freedom of Religion.

Recently some of us noticed that we were transitioning from acting as a group oriented to group priorities to better hearing the Holy Spirit’s call to specific and sometimes individual action.   We are learning what it means, through our Baptism, to embrace roles as priest, prophet and king.

We have mused on our transition from acting as a group (which of course we will continue do on occasion, such as regarding the next USCCB-requested Procession, on October 20th, ) and the emerging actions and projects of individuals, energized by our group experience.  One does not preclude the other. 

We spent much time during the Festival for Freedom learning and preparing ourselves.  It is perfectly natural that we would now move toward the individual responsibility of Christian Action as well.  Christ used the imagery of wheat.  In our area of the country we might also learn from the milkweed pod.  When ready, the interior action opens  the pod, and life bursts forward to reseed itself.  In our growing in learning together, we are becoming ready to go forward in fruitfulness.  Ultimately, that is what reflects, or not, the results of the Festival for Freedom.   I hope you find the image as enchanting as we do.


We’d also like to be a place which can collect the various initiatives into one place and support each other.  For example, if your church has set aside a time of adoration together during the week, or a daily Mass together, a scripture study, or  service at which those working on the freedom initiative try to attend, please let us know and we’ll post the specifics right here. 

In addition to worship events, we will also post any freedom activities occuring which we are given permission to publish.  To start things off, here are just a few which the FFF organizing committee is initiating or continuing.    Please send information on your events which we can post, events such as Adoration, Mass, Prayer, Rosary etc.  Email us at info@FestivalforFreedom.com 

Committee Freedom Activities

Completed :  Mailing  information and homily resources to pastors, parish priests.

Distribution of Voters’ Guides highlighting USCCB guidelines (copy here)

School Education Activities including an Essay Contest on Freedom

Letters to the Editor of various newspapers and journals

Letters to Government Representatives; writing articles

Processions and Marches (Next USCCB-summoned event is October 20th.)

Signage, ads, bulletin boards, flyer, mailers.

Meetings and Discussion Groups; Movies, Guest Speakers

Contact Us

Festival For Freedom.
PO Box 196
Canandaigua, NY, 14424



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