Welcome the Appignani Humanist Legal Center’s new Staff Attorney, Katie McKerall!
TheHumanist.com: What is your educational and work background?
Katie McKerall: I graduated from the University of South Alabama with a BA in Philosophy. After trying various jobs, I spent a year with AmeriCorps VISTA, starting with building a volunteer program for a local non-profit and then working as a grant writer. I loved working to build programs that served the community, but felt I needed a bigger challenge. So, I decided to go to law school to pursue a career in public interest law. I attended law school at George Mason University and then worked as a Staff Attorney for the Commissioner of Accounts in Fairfax, VA.
TheHumanist.com: How did you first learn about humanism?
Katie: I learned about humanism while studying philosophy as an undergraduate. I believe I first encountered humanism when I took Philosophy of Religion. I was drawn to the idea that humans can develop moral and ethical frameworks based on science and reason, without the “incentive” of avoiding eternal punishment.
TheHumanist.com: Did you grow up in a traditional religious faith? How did it impact you?
Katie: I was raised Catholic. The contradictions, rampant sexism, and repeated cover-ups made me wary of any group that requires blind adherence to dogma and crystalized my commitment to a worldview based on reason and observation.
TheHumanist.com: What interested you most about working for the American Humanist Association?
Katie: I am passionate about the First Amendment, particularly the separation of church and state. While I was at George Mason, I worked at the Free Speech Clinic on First Amendment issues. I can think of no better place to follow my passion than AHA.
TheHumanist.com: What book has influenced you the most?
Katie: The Book by Alan Watts. The Book beautifully combines science and philosophy to illustrate the interconnectedness of all things. I found it very liberating to ditch the idea that each of us is an isolated ego trapped in a bag of skin and to embrace the idea that, as Watts puts it, “[e]very individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe.”
TheHumanist.com: If you could have dinner with any three people in the world (living or dead), who would they be and why?
Katie: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, because her life and work for equality are inspirational; Mark Twain, because I can always use some writing tips; and Neil deGrasse Tyson, because space is cool.