UW volunteer receives FFRF student activist award – Calli Miller

Calli Miller, a University of Wisconsin-Madison student, is the recipient of a $1,000 Catherine Fahringer Memorial Student Activist Award from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

The scholarship recognizes Calli’s extraordinary contributions to FFRF and state/church separation as an legal intern volunteer during two semesters.

Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert says Calli has been a “stand out” intern. “Because of our small staff and voluminous caseload, we expect interns to be self-starters with the ability to work independently. Calli’s research and writing abilities contributed greatly to our work, and she was able to assist FFRF staff attorneys in obtaining several key nonlitigation victories, including egregious prayer violations in schools and before local board meetings.

“Calli always conducted herself in a professional manner and contributed to lively discussions in the office and at staff social functions. I know that the legal staff, and the rest of the crew at FFRF, will agree that she truly will be missed,” Markert added.


By Calli Miller

Ever since I was in early middle school, freethinking was something into which I fell naturally, but I wasn’t really educated on the subject, nor was I an activist.

In fact, I didn’t even know that freethought activism existed until I began at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the fall of 2011. It was then that I attended my very first Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics (AHA) at UW-Madison meeting at the urging of my friend. I’ve been a member (and an officer) ever since. 

Although fairly new to the freethought movement, I have had the luck of meeting a large number of awesome freethinkers. Through AHA, I have made some great friends, especially among the other officers. Together, we’ve held debates against one of the on-campus Catholic groups, hosted many weekly meetings centered around freethinking discussion topics and, most notably, founded the now-annual Freethought Fest held every year on campus.

Freethought Fest is a 100% free three-day conference with many speakers from all over the country. I feel very fortunate to be a part of the student group resourceful and innovative enough to bring the “large atheist conference” feeling directly to UW-Madison students.

It was at the urging of AHA Executive Director Chris Calvey that I applied to be a legal intern at FFRF. I am currently double majoring in sociology and legal studies at UW and have always wanted to go to law school.

Chris (correctly) thought that an internship at a nonprofit that paired my nonbelief and my love of law would be right up my alley. Thank god (pun intended) that he encouraged me to go for it — my time at FFRF was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. Quite literally, every single person who works at FFRF is a quality human.

Being surrounded by people who were always cheerful, passionate and incredibly kind made for a great internship experience. Of course, I also learned a lot: My writing skills improved, I gained a far more comprehensive knowledge of constitutional law as it relates to the separation of state and church and I discovered just how badly America needs organizations such as FFRF.

It seems trite to say that “I will never forget my time at FFRF,” because that seems obvious. But I do know that the lessons I learned there won’t fade throughout the years.

I would like to thank FFRF for generously granting me their Catherine Fahringer Memorial Student Activist Award. More importantly, I would like to thank everyone at Freethought Hall for their time and the knowledge they’ve imparted to me.

When I (hopefully — cross your fingers!) go to law school, I will carry my time at FFRF with me every step of the way and beyond. Thank you so much!

Freedom From Religion Foundation