Credit: Contributed photo
Essay winners Luke Frei and Cecilia Rojas are pictured with their teacher Mrs. Stowers.
As of Tuesday, December 9, 2014
Three local students have been named winners in a First Amendment essay contest.
Christopher Hempstead, a former Camas Prairie teacher who is now living in Saudi Arabia, sponsored the contest with help from Free Press Cottonwood correspondent Donna Wassmuth.
“He said there is no freedom of religion in Saudi Arabia and he wanted the students to learn to appreciate the freedom in the U.S.,” Wassmuth said.
Hempstead put up the prize money for students in grades one through eight who were asked to complete art work or write about freedom of religion and ideas such as what would families do if the government interfered in their freedom to practice religion.
Essay winners were Sts. Peter and Paul School students Cecilia Rojas and Luke Frei, first and second place respectively, and David Wassmuth of Summit Academy in Cottonwood, third place. Winners received $500, $300 and $200.
Rojas wrote in her essay: “Pope John Paul II said, ‘I plead with you - never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid. Freedom of religion gives us the right to choose our own religion, It also lets us change or not have a religion at all. In the United States we do not have an official religion. The government does not have a say in our religious beliefs. The government does not give financial support to any religion. By having out religious rights we can pray as a community or as individuals. We do not need to hide or be ashamed of our religion. I can freely say I am Catholic.”
“My family and I go to church every Sunday. If they took that away, we would argue and struggle and go to church anyway. They don’t have the power to tell me who to worship. If I want to worship God, I’m going to worship God,” wrote Frei.