Rutland Institute for Ethics

The Robert J. Rutland Institute for Ethics announces...

The 15th Annual

J.T. Barton Jr. Ethics Essay Scholarship Competition


1st Prize: $1,500 Scholarship

2nd Prize: $1,000 Scholarship

3rd Prize: $500 Scholarship

The deadline for submissions is 4:30 p.m. Monday April 11, 2016

Winners will be notified by Friday, April 22, 2016.
A link to instuctions and advice for submissions is at the bottom of the page

For your essay, pick ONE of the five cases below and address the associated question:

Rape and Parental Rights


Does the moral right to religious freedom entail a right to discriminate against persons on the basis of, say, sexual orientation or race?

Aaron and Melissa Klein baked up a storm of controversy when they refused to bake a wedding cake for Laurel and Rachel Bowman-Cryer and ended up liable for $135,000 in damages for the unlawful denial of service as well as for emotional distress. Their refusal to bake the wedding cake violated a state statute in Oregon that prohibited discrimination based upon sexual orientation.

Many states over the past few decades have struggled with the issues of discrimination based on sexual orientation and same-sex marriage. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, 23 states provide at least some protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Additionally, 37 states passed laws providing express legal sanction to same-sex marriages while the remaining 13 outlawed them—some states even added a state constitutional definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman. ..... (MORE)



Should doctors be held morally responsible for their patients’ abusing otherwise legally prescribed drugs?

Dr. David Vandercar was retired from a career in psychology and anesthesiology when his daughter suffered a neck injury and needed help that turned out to be hard to find. Her doctors advocated for expensive surgeries and insisted on giving her injections which didn’t seem to help her neck pain; Dr. Vandercar was confident that the more traditional pain management regimen of narcotic pain medications would be more effective. But his daughter was having difficulty finding doctors who would provide medications without the other more invasive treatments. So Dr. Vandercar opened Tampa Pain Clinic . . . and business could not have been better......(MORE)

Shot in the Dark


To what extent should police accused of a crime be treated like anyone else?

After Freddie Gray died a brutal death while in police custody, it took days before the Baltimore Police Department mounted an internal investigation. The reason for the delay was the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBOR), which provides that officers cannot be forced to make a statement within 10 days of an incident and that superiors cannot question an officer without a lawyer present. Additionally, an officer may only be questioned for a reasonable amount of time, at a reasonable hour, and by only one or two investigators (fellow policemen). Some believe that this “ ‘special layer of due process’ afforded police officers ‘impedes accountability, and truly is a key element of our lack of responsiveness to these cases’ of apparent excessive force.”...(MORE)



Should those who refuse to vaccinate their children be taxed for doing so?

In January of 2015 over 100 people in the US contracted measles, mostly from an outbreak of the disease at California’s Disneyland theme park. The outbreak was spread in part by people who had refused to accept vaccinations for themselves or their children. In July of 2015, the Washington State Department of Health confirmed the first death from measles in the United States in 12 years.

Vaccinations for diseases like measles, mumps, and rubella have kept these diseases in check in the Western world for more than 50 years. While these diseases used to run rampant and threaten adults and children alike, they had all but been defeated up until the early 2000's. Guided by a pop-culture movement that cited, among other things, a (now retracted) scientific paper linking autism with the vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), people began delaying vaccinations for their children or refusing them outright. While numerous studies have shown that childhood vaccinations are safe and reliable bulwarks against disease, the number of parents refusing vaccines has continued to climb. .....(MORE)



Should Cassandra have been allowed to refuse medical treatment? 

Before Cassandra could have her first round of chemotherapy to treat Hodgkin lymphoma, she had to have a port placed in her body to deliver the cancer-fighting drugs. During this surgical procedure, she had to be strapped to the bed against her wishes, for she was adamantly against receiving chemotherapy—a treatment she deemed poisonous to her body, despite knowing that without it she would almost certainly die.

Had Cassandra been at least 18 years old, she would have had the legal right to refuse the cancer treatment. From a legal and moral standpoint, the doctrine of informed consent and informed refusal protects the liberty of competent adults to make autonomous medical decisions. However, being only 17, Cassandra’s wishes were dismissed by the Connecticut Supreme Court. The judges unanimously ruled that Cassandra could be forced by the state to receive chemotherapy, because she lacked the necessary maturity to make her own medical decisions. ...(MORE)

Instructions are available here:


Your essay should address the question associated with one of the five cases:

“There Will Be Hell to Pay”
“A Pain in the Neck”
“Police Officers Bill of Rights”
“Anti-Vax Tax”
“Forced Chemotherapy”

Be sure to indicate clearly which case and question you have selected.

The cases were prepared for the 22nd Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl. They are used with the kind permission of the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics, which holds the copyright on them.


Since you’re writing on an ethical question, your essay should concentrate on what should be done ethically rather than what is typical, practical, or consistent with a particular set of religious beliefs.

Ethical reasoning focuses on things like consequences, fairness, and rights. Your essay should address topics like the potential personal and societal effects (or consequences) involved, what would be fair, whether or not people’s rights are being violated.

Keep in mind that there is no one definitive answer to the question. The success of your essay depends on how effectively you state your reasons for the position you take.


Start by identifying the most significant points to be addressed.

Read a variety of opinions on the subject to get an idea of the strengths and weaknesses of the various points of view.

Construct your own argument based upon the information you find most central, significant, and compelling.

Test your argument by discussing the question with people who disagree with you.

Revise several times, getting feedback after each new draft.

Utilize credible sources and cite all sources using an appropriate citation format (MLA, APA, or Chicago) in accordance with the university’s undergraduate academic integrity policy: Academic Integrity Policy Undergraduate Studies


Essays must be typed (double-spaced) using a twelve-point font. The title page should include the author’s name and contact information, but the text of the paper should be suitable for blind review (do not put your name in a header or footer). Essays must not exceed 1,500 words (a word count should be included on the title page; references and citations should not be included in the word count).

Essays should be submitted in electronic form (word document) as an attachment to email, which should be sent to this address: . Early submissions are welcome.


The deadline for submissions is 4:30 p.m. Monday April 11, 2016.

Winners will be notified by Friday April 22, 2016.




The Rutland Institute for Ethics  is committed to

Clemson University’s Academic integrity policies:

Undergraduate Policy

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