No matter how much I dislike them, sometimes clichés just say it best. For example, time really does fly: today is my last day as an intern for (the) Interfaith Alliance. I started interning here at the Washington, DC headquarters back in September, and the experience has been as encouraging as it has been eye-opening.
I arrived in the midst of the 2008 campaign cycle and got a firsthand view of the religion-related shenanigans that ensued: Sarah Palin’s proclamations, FOX News’ ‘Obama the Muslim’ accusations, Elizabeth Dole’s “Godless” attack ad and all the other examples of the unholy alliance of religion and politics. But through it all, I was encouraged by the actions and comments of Interfaith Alliance members and supporters, a well-informed, motivated national network of Americans who understand the risk of the growing entanglement of religion and government. They responded to the challenge and, as an organization, we were able to effectively shed light on the many sins of the campaign season.
During the past seven months I have also had the honor of sitting in on meetings with foreign delegations interested in the American approach to religious liberty. These State Department-sponsored groups from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Thailand, Azerbaijan and Iraq included educators, religious leaders, scholars and community leaders who visited the Interfaith Alliance to meet with our National Field Director and learn how issues of faith and freedom are handled in America. Their questions and perspectives were quite insightful, and I left each meeting struck by how much I took for granted my personal liberties as an American.
Looking back at my time as an intern here, I certainly learned a lot. I know my time spent here will serve me well in the future, particularly next year. I will be spending the year studying political science, religion and international relations in Marseille. I’m especially curious about the stringent French system of secularism called laïcité and how French society handles issues of religious pluralism vis-à-vis the American approach.