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Freethought Today · May 2013

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Meet the Legal Interns

Meet a military
veteran legal intern

Name: Travis Bohn.

When and where I was born: San Diego, Calif.. 1983.

Family: Yes.

Education: B.A. in English, emphasis in publishing, from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. I expect to graduate from the UW Law School in 2014.

My religious upbringing was: Freethought.

How I came to work as an FFRF legal intern: While on active duty in the U.S. Navy, I was subject to constant proselytizing from my superiors. Onboard a ship in the middle of the ocean, there was no place to which I could escape. There were prayers at most mandatory events, even during meals and fitness tests. Some specialist programs even mandated a chaplain’s intervention before proceeding.

I was personally denied entrance into such a program on the recommendation of my command’s Christian chaplain, who wasn’t convinced of my moral fitness based on the fact that I did not belong to a faith group. It was uncomfortable and unconstitutional. There are no faith groups or chaplains for nonreligious, humanist service members, despite having more self-identified members than Jews, Muslims, Hindu and Buddhists. I want to prevent others from going through what I did, and FFRF allows me to help.

What I do here: I assist the staff attorneys on legal matters. I research new developments in the law and draft letters of complaint.

What I like best about it: This is so different from law school. I’m helping to achieve real change for real people. It’s an extremely rewarding experience to make a difference in the lives of our members. They are not always in a position to help themselves and often face retribution.  

Something funny that’s happened at work: I recently learned about Wis. Stat. § 97.18, which makes it illegal for restaurants to substitute margarine for butter unless requested by a customer. The penalty: up to three months in jail for a first offense; up to a year for each subsequent offense.

My legal interests are: I want to help people. It’s really that simple.  

My legal heroes are: The always prosaic Justice Fergus O’Donnell, a Canadian jurist who writes with a sharpened wit that appeals to my sense of humor.  

These three words sum me up: Awesome, awesome and awesome. Just kidding. Tenacious, ambitious and driven.

Things I like: Laughter, literature, intelligent conversation, cooking and swimming.

Things I smite: We live in an era with unprecedented access to information. If you get all your news from one source, you’re doing it wrong.

My loftiest goal: To sit on the bench.

Fun fact: When I was about 10 years old, I wanted to be a Ninja Turtle when I grew up.

 

And a legal skeptic
shall guide you

Name: Jarvis K. Idowu.

Where and when I was born: Brooklyn, N.Y., Sept. 25, 1985. 

Family: Mother, Kathy; father, Bill; brother, John; and sister, Anna. 

Education: Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, N.Y., B.A. in philosophy; University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Law, J.D. candidate 2015.  

My religious upbringing was: Nothing really. I went to a private Quaker school, and my dad was raised Jewish. We celebrated Christmas and Hanukkah, but there was never any question — our family was and remains nontheists, atheists, nonbelievers or what have you. But I do think the family has become more impassioned about secularism recently.  

How I came to work as an FFRF legal intern: Ever since my work on the Obama campaign in 2008, I’ve been passionate about secularism. I devoured everything I could find by Hitchens, Dawkins, the “Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe,” etc., I attended meet-up groups on atheism, joined Americans United, tried to create a layperson’s guide to the bible, started a blog called the “Skeptics Guide to Korea” while I was working abroad and basically took every opportunity to engage the topic.

I came to law school with the dual desire to pursue Establishment Clause and prosecutorial work. When I discovered that FFRF was based in Madison, it was a no-brainer. If I hadn’t been hired, I would have volunteered in whatever capacity they would have had me.  

What I do here: Address state/church complaints, mostly by letter. At times I have drafted memos on specific legal issues that require further research or contact complainants to get more information.  

What I like best about it: Everything! Religious fanaticism is the call to arms, if you will, for my generation. Had I been born in the ’60s, I would have been in dereliction of my moral duties as a human to idly observe the civil rights and anti-war movements. The same is true now in the face of religious fanaticism and its affronts to scientific and social progress. 

Something funny that’s happened at work: Most of the complaints have an element of tragedy and comedy. The awkward contortions religious zealots go through to indoctrinate children are amusing and terrifying at the same time. 

My legal interests are: Fairly narrow — criminal prosecution and Establishment Clause. 

My legal heroes are: Oliver Wendell Holmes, the great dissenter. And each of the staff attorneys at FFRF, who all work daily to make the world a more intelligent, educated and peaceful place. 

These three words sum me up: Skeptical, curious, persistent.

Things I like: Reality TV, cheap sugar (calorie-dense, completely unhealthy snacks), awkward situations, whiskey-fueled political debates, vindication. 

Things I smite: Reality TV (bipolar relationship here), proud ignorance, cowardice or acquiescence, truth told with bad intentions, vegetables, blandness. 

My loftiest goal: To be a district attorney by age 35 and to somehow play a role in making the 19% [“nones”] into the 51%.

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