Summer Non-Vacation: Interns Reflect On Their Time At Americans United

Editor’s Note: Today we are pleased to present a blog post written by Allison Rothschild and Delaney Gold-Diamond, both of whom served as interns with Americans United this summer. They offer some thoughts on their experiences.

Allison Rothschild, AU Legal Intern: I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity I’ve had this summer to learn about Americans United’s mission and contribute to its goals.

Before my internship in the Legal Department, I had already begun preparing to apply to law school next year. Watching the legal staff and fellows passionately develop cases that protect women’s right to contraception and prevent public funds from being used for religious purposes has only confirmed that this is the career path I want to pursue. Doing research for briefs, cite checking, and writing up case summaries helped acquaint me with legal proceedings and historic Supreme Court decisions, but I gained far more from the staff’s openness and willingness to answer all my questions. I feel almost like I learned through osmosis. Just being around all of these people who care about constitutional issues and get excited when Supreme Court decisions come down has been as valuable an experience as the work itself.

Although the legal work is what drew me to AU, I’m also glad I got a chance to learn about and work with other departments. Litigation can be a powerful advocacy tool, but it is not the best-suited tool for every situation. One of the things that has impressed me most about AU is that it uses every means possible to protect separation of church and state, from educating and engaging the public to fighting bad bills in state legislatures.

In particular, I am so impressed with Protect Thy Neighbor and the work it does to bring awareness to church-state separation issues happening at the state level. Even someone like me, who cares about these issues but who lives in a liberal, college bubble can forget at times that people are still trying to impose their religion on others and use faith as an excuse to discriminate.  

Americans United does an amazing job keeping this issue in the spotlight and fighting to protect church-state separation, and I am proud to have gotten to be a part of it for the summer.

Delaney Gold-Diamond, AU Field Intern: As a student of Political Science and Romance Languages at the University of Chicago, I understand the importance of asking questions. A strong education is not about merely learning and regurgitating material. Rather, an excellent education is the foundation for a lifelong sense of intellectual curiosity.

Why is it important for me to study and understand this? How does it fit in its historical and modern context? Can it make the world better?

As an intern in Americans United’s Field Department, I have come to understand that non-profit and advocacy work requires a similar curiosity. The most rewarding part of my job was not the data entry or scanning files. I’m lucky that I did not have to do a lot of those tasks! Rather, this experience was gratifying because I was given the opportunity to grapple with the big questions: Why is church-state separation important? What are its social, cultural, legal, and political implications? Can it make the world better?

Ultimately, my conclusion is that church-state separation is one of the great foundations of American democracy. It protects freedom of conscience. It keeps the United States diverse. Church-state separation works to protect the noble principles of freedom of religion and freedom to choose no religion at all.

Yet, it still finds itself under attack. Indeed, some of the most vicious church-state violations come from the communities that benefit from it the most.   

And that is where Americans United steps in. On a legal, policy-making, and educational front it fights back. It does the grueling work of changing hearts and minds. My work in the Field Department allowed me to make what felt like a valuable contribution to these efforts.

I helped research and write strategies that will help local chapters become more effective. I created a project that will help faith-based student organizations host discussion series on the importance of church-state separation to members of American religious communities. I volunteered with a coalition of non-profits to educate the offices of U.S. senators on the importance of pledging to protect religious freedom by preventing discrimination against others.

Being able to step behind the curtain and watch all the moving parts that go into protecting church-state separation, as well as being able to pull some knobs and levers myself, has been a fascinating experience that will not only help guide my intellectual understanding of these important issues, but my professional career as well.

Americans United interns (from left to right): Moises Serrano, William Moss, Allison Rothschild, Jeffrey Bishop and Delaney Gold-Diamond.