Meet FFRF’s 2021 summer interns

Each summer, the FFRF Legal Team hires law school students as full-time interns to help with FFRF’s heavy workload in fighting state/church separation entanglements around the country.

Here is a closer look at this year’s group.

James Aird

(University of Wisconsin Law School)

Where did you grow up?

Proctor, Minn., a small railroad town right outside of Duluth. 

Were you raised in a religious household?

I was raised Catholic, although I wouldn’t describe my parents as especially religious. My mom just felt it was her duty to raise us at least with some religious education. Our priest growing up was very well-liked, but when he rotated out to a new church, the new priest was much more dogmatic and he (along with a similarly orthodox catechism teacher) opened my eyes to the problems with church doctrine. At some point around, then I picked up some Hitchens and Dawkins books and never looked back. 

Where did you attend college as an undergrad?  

Ironically enough, the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth. My sisters had all attended previously, and I received a generous scholarship. While the college was founded by nuns, it has in recent decades become much more secular in its day-to-day operations.    

Why did you want to be a legal intern for FFRF?

FFRF excited me because of its impact litigation. Going from processing real estate transactions to assisting with civil rights litigation was a huge step for me in feeling like the work I do really matters. 

What is your favorite part of working for FFRF?

I have really enjoyed working with the litigation team on their pending cases. Beyond learning a ton about the religion clauses and the merits of these cases, I have also learned a lot about civil procedure and motion practice in federal court.  

What is one thing that you think people might not know about you? 

I love to cook!  On the menu this week: spicy korean bulgolgi lettuce wraps.

Matthew Hansen

(University of Wisconsin Law School) 

Where did you grow up?

Wausau, Wis. 

Were you raised in a religious household?

My father was raised Catholic and my mother was generally irreligious. I was fortunate that my parents gave me the education, freedom and tools I needed to decide for myself the lens through which I wanted to view the world.  

Where did you attend college as an undergrad?

University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

Why did you want to be a legal intern for FFRF?

One of the high school choir teachers in my hometown held a Christmas concert where he required the public school choir to sing exclusively Christian music. The issue ruffled a lot of feathers on the school board and animated the local religious and secular populations. The controversy gained enough attention for FFRF to get involved, which is where I first heard about the organization. While in law school, I have had the honor of serving as a teaching assistant for undergraduate classes on constitutional rights and political philosophy. Part of this experience allowed me to teach Establishment Clause jurisprudence to political science students, which opened my eyes to the energy and enthusiasm young people have for the topic and the frustration and confusion they have about more recent Supreme Court decisions. This experience solidified my passion for the topic and drove me to apply to FFRF to help combat Christian nationalism, the theft of the court system, and to oppose the degradation of the high wall which has historically separated state and church. 

What is your favorite part of working for FFRF?

The staff at FFRF are all phenomenal, each one has a visible passion for what they do and want nothing more than to make their county a better, more tolerant and less dogmatic place. Being part of a meaningful movement is highly rewarding and instills a sense of purpose in everything I do at FFRF. In many ways, FFRF feels like the front line in a rapidly changing legal and social battle over the religious character of our nation and it’s an honor to be a part of that.  

What is one thing that you think people might not know about you? 

I used to be a nationally ranked Kubb player. Kubb is a Swedish lawn game, sometimes called Viking chess, with a growing following in the upper Midwest. 

Raghen Lucy

(Hamline School of Law)

Where did you grow up?

Williston, N.D.

Were you raised in a religious household?

I was raised in a blended religious household (one Methodist parent and one Catholic parent).

Where did you attend college as an undergrad?  

Minnesota State University, Mankato, where I studied philosophy, politics and economics.

Why did you want to be a legal intern for FFRF?

I was first introduced to FFRF when my Secular Student Alliance chapter in Mankato hosted Dan Barker for a debate in 2018. I wanted to spend my last summer before law school gaining practical experience in the legal field and contributing to the vital cause of state/church separation. This legal internship has allowed me to do both!

What is your favorite part of working for FFRF?

My favorite part of working for FFRF has been working with such a great staff. Everyone has been nothing but friendly, helpful and forthcoming with advice for the future. I am thankful for this opportunity to work with individuals who serve as role models and inspirations for my own legal career.

What is one thing that you think people might not know about you? 

I made a playlist on Spotify that has 57 hours worth of my favorite music.

Alex Moore

(University of Wisconsin Law School) 

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in a small conservative community in East Texas. 

Were you raised in a religious household?

Yes, I attended multiple religious activities a week for most of my childhood. 

Where did you attend college as an undergrad?

University of Texas at Tyler.

Why did you want to be a legal intern for FFRF?

Re-establishing the separation of state and church is vital to progress and equity in our country. I also deeply appreciate that FFRF makes a specific effort to protect the rights of children. 

What is your favorite part of working for FFRF?

I know that everything I am working on provides support to nonreligious people who often do not have a voice in their community. 

What is one thing that you think people might not know about you? 

I recently fulfilled a lifelong dream of learning how to solve a Rubik’s cube. It is very exciting!

Michael Sayle

(University of Arizona College of Law) 

Where did you grow up?

My family moved around a lot when I was growing up. But notable places would include Memphis, Washington (both state and D.C.), Texas (San Antonio and Longview), Arkansas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Suffolk (England). I also spent the first five years post-undergrad teaching English in Hunan Province, China. After finishing my graduate degrees, I spent four years in Qingdao, China, as the head of the English for Academic Purposes Program at the University of Arizona Global Campus (in partnership with Ocean University of China). Home, however, is Tucson, Ariz.

Were you raised in a religious household?

Very. We attended church at least every Sunday, and for different stretches of time when my folks were feeling particularly compelled, we’d attend Sunday night and Wednesday night. I was baptized at the age of 16, which is late for a lot of people in that denomination. I felt I had to go through a questioning stage before believing I had good reasons for “accepting the gospel,” and at the time, I thought reading through apologetics books was genuine questioning. I was, of course, mostly assuaging some cognitive dissonance by indulging in a heaping dose of confirmation bias. 

Where did you attend college as an undergrad?

I went on to attend a private Christian university in Arkansas, where I studied mission work with the intent of becoming a missionary. The more I studied the academic literature about its central text, the more ecumenical my outlook became. I feel this had more to do with how increasingly untenable a literal interpretation of the text became. After graduation, as the years passed, I slowly came to realize that any truth in the religion was incidental to the human desire to understand the world they find themselves in.

Why did you want to be a legal intern for FFRF?

FFRF has been essential in protecting the Establishment Clause from erosion by religious actors, and I wanted to be helpful in that regard. I also knew it would give me good exposure to and experience in the way public interest law works.

What is your favorite part of working for FFRF?

I get to spend a lot of time researching religious incursions into government. It’s been fulfilling to be a part of holding government actors accountable for pushing their religious beliefs onto other people.

What is one thing that you think people might not know about you? 

I love working with and learning about languages and linguistics, especially where syntax and semantics intersect with second language acquisition and psycholinguistics.

Sukhvir Singh

Raghen Lucy
Sukhvir Singh
Michael Sayle
Matthew Hansen
Alex Moore

(Rutgers Law School) 

Where did you grow up?

I was born and lived the first part of my life in Astoria, Queens, N.Y., and moved to Morris Plains, N.J., when I was 10.

Were you raised in a religious household?

Yes, I was raised in a Sikh household. 

Where did you attend college as an undergrad?  

I attended Rutgers University, majoring in cultural anthropology and American studies.

Why did you want to be a legal intern for FFRF?

I wanted to be an intern for FFRF because I wanted to contribute and be a part of its goals, but also to learn from very skilled attorneys who seek to advance secular objectives. 

What is your favorite part of working for FFRF?

My favorite part of FFRF is when I receive an email presenting a victory in a case or challenge FFRF was involved in because it shows the success and hard work of everyone involved. It reminds me of the tangible difference we make in the lives of secular individuals across the country. 

What is one thing that you think people might not know about you? 

I love sports and one day hope to be in a position where I can have part ownership of a team of any kind.