Name: Kristen Fox.
When I was born: In 1982, after which I spent my early childhood in the tiny rural town of Marshall in the Ozark region of Arkansas before moving to the “suburbs,” the small central Arkansas city of Conway, aka to some as the buckle of the bible belt. The only reason you might have ever heard of it is because we spawned an NBA star Scottie Pippen and “American Idol” winner Kris Allen and are roundly mocked on late-night shows for our annual Toad Suck Daze festival the first weekend in May. (Long ago, steamboats traveled the Arkansas River when the water was at the right depth. When it wasn’t, crews tied up to wait and refreshed themselves at the local tavern to the dismay of residents, who said: “They suck on the bottle till they swell up like toads.”)
Family: I live with my calmer half, Rick (a law enforcement officer and fellow freethinking law student), and our three spoiled-beyond-rotten “kids” (two miniature pinschers and a Doberman pinscher). My mother, stepfather and three younger sisters still live in Conway, and I’m especially close to my oldest little sister, Mireya, who is a 17-year-old “mini-me” (which is the best revenge an adult child can exact on her parents!).
My grandmother also moved there a few years back after my grandfather passed away. He was the first atheist I ever knew, even though I didn’t find out until after he had passed away, sadly.
Education: I received my B.A. from the University of Central Arkansas with a double major in political science and philosophy and a double minor in German and honors interdisciplinary studies. I’m currently a dual-degree student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, working on a J.D. and a Ph.D. in political science, with emphases in American politics, the judiciary and constitutional law (particularly civil rights and civil liberties).
My religious upbringing was: A Christian potpourri. I (very) sporadically attended the Church of Christ, Pentecostal, and various nondenominational churches, but it was just what you did at the time. As an angry preteen, I was drawn to the hellfire and brimstone of the Anabaptist and Southern Baptist sects, which are never at a loss for recommendations of whom to hate.
Realizing quickly that I wasn’t a literalist and didn’t hate women or the LGBT community, I tried to leave the church scene altogether, but instead I had to wage a weekly war against my parents’ insistence that I attend a Nazarene church full of nice people with completely incompatible beliefs from my own. After high school, I rapidly moved through the deconversion steps of vaguely Christian to “spiritual” to irreligious.
How I came to work as an FFRF legal intern: I’m equally drawn to a career in teaching or progressive interest group work, so when I realized that FFRF was located in Madison, I immediately planned to apply (having a significant other, dogs and a house makes it difficult to jaunt off to D.C. or other more overtly political locales, and besides, I adore Madison). I was a firm believer in the separation of state/church even when I was still moderately religious, and that only grew as I became more politically active in general.
What I do here: Shake my head and sigh — frequently — at the sorts of constitutional violations which occur on a daily basis all over the country. The head-shaking is followed by extensive research, collaboration with the staff attorneys and other interns and then drafting policy letters and letters of complaint.
What I like best about it: The office environment is incredibly friendly and laid-back. I cannot overstate how wonderful it is to work in an environment where the odds of being attacked for being irreligious are nonexistent. After 26 years in the South, it’s definitely a first.
Something funny that’s happened: It’s been funny realizing how much religious lingo filters into everyday phrases, even at an office of freethinkers (e.g., “oh my god” and the like). My favorite incident was witnessing a rather loud sneeze, an awkward silence, and then an equally loud and enthusiastic “Umm, baby Jesus bless you?!” Another substitute sneeze blessing here is “You are so good-looking” (from “Seinfeld”).
My legal interests are: My undergrad research focused primarily on LGBT rights and state-church separation issues (with significant overlap, of course). I’m also a bit of a Michel Foucault enthusiast, which (in addition to the writings of George Lakoff and George Orwell) definitely influences my approach to legal studies.
My legal heroes are: How could any good progressive not respect the pioneering Chief Justice Earl Warren? No one’s perfect, but those were fascinating years for civil rights. If only the modern era could have had, say, the Stevens court instead of the Burger, Rehnquist or Roberts courts, but I dream.
These three words sum me up: Sarcastic vegan socialist.
Things I like: My fiancé, Rick Spoentgen. Reading and writing, but not arithmetic. All things Henry Rollins. “Call of Duty,” “Mortal Kombat” and other time-sucking console-gaming pleasures. Nietzsche. Debating uncomfortable political and/or religious topics.
Things I smite: Bad drivers, particularly those who sit in the middle of the intersection before turning left on red lights, or anyone who drives in front of me while going under the speed limit. Descartes. Summer heat and humidity. Our two-party political system.
Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.
Meet a legal intern
Name: Kristen Fox.