We mentioned at the end of last episode, ‘100‘, that we were going to be delving into the hiring of Edwina Rogers, a Republican lobbyist, as the Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America (SCA). The SCA is the premier advocacy and lobbying organization for secular concepts in Washington, DC. We’ve spoken with and about the SCA with its former Executive Director, Sean Faircloth in our ‘…and Finally, Politics‘ episode.
Edwina Rogers is, no doubt, a controversial choice for the SCA, as there are many in the Atheism Visibility Movement who see the GOP and conservatives as the prime opponent to our movement. Anecdotally, we can say that there was a lot of concern in our social media feeds, and we share some of that concern, especially in light of recent interviews with Rogers.
We would like to talk about Edwina Rogers about our concerns, and we’ve extended an invitation to talk with us this week on our show, prerecorded or live. But first, we find it necessary to discuss what concerns we don’t have about Edwina Rogers:
As we’ve pointed out several times on Ask an Atheist, there’s very little that atheism or skepticism says about politics. While disbelief in gods says something very clear about creationism in schools, enforced prayer, and (as we’ve seen) LGBT equality, it does not say anything clearly about health care, military spending, or fiscal policy in general.
The appointment of a conservative atheist to the Secular Coalition for America speaks a very clear message about non-partisanship in the clear, concise, and unbroken separation of Church and State. Every American of any political or religious affiliation, from the Lutheran Church to the Constitution Party, is protected by this wall regardless of what they think about it. A conservative Executive Director of an organization nominally regarded as liberal makes that message clear.
While we believe there are difficulties in being a social conservative and an atheist in the context of modern American conservatism, we know that there are large areas of the conservative movement where atheists are quite welcome. Conservative atheists have every right to sit at the table as their more liberal peers.
Her Apparent Newness to Atheism and Secularism
A subtext of the criticism facing Edwina Rogers is her newcomer appearance. While there are places where we believe this may be a problem, her recent arrival on the atheism stage is not, in itself, a drawback.
The Atheism Visibility Movement by its very nature is made up of newcomers. While many of us are not new to the concept of atheism, the movement and social activity we enjoy is very recent. Edwina may have a lot to learn about the American atheist context and our movement, but if she wants to use her skills to further the cause of a distinctly secular government, that is no drawback.
Just within Ask an Atheist, Becky has only been an atheist for three years. While Sam and Mike have been atheists for most of their lives, they only became active themselves fairly recently; Sam in 2006 (as he often points out), and Mike in 2009 with the express purpose of beginning a project which became Ask an Atheist.
Outside of our show, are Jerry DeWitt or Theresa Macbain poor choices for their work, even though together they’ve been atheists for a cumulative total of one year, four months? Is Rich Lyons a poor choice for his work, even thought he is a recent atheist? Unlike many religions, we’re under no commitment to treat new atheists as if they have nothing to bring to the table.
Edwina Rogers could be a powerful choice for the helm Secular Coalition for America, but we can’t ignore the hurdles in her way. Some of these hurdles are only apparent because of her controversial selection, but we feel they must be addressed. We must also again stress that we have contacted Edwina Rogers and the SCA for an interview or a statement, and we look forward to the discussion.
In our next post we’ll look at Rogers’ statements about the GOP which are at odds with GOP documentation.