Moderate Republicans have been going the way of the Dodo bird since 1964 when Evangelical Christians began their effort to take control of the party. Well all know what happens to moderate Republicans. We even know what happens to conservative Republicans who aren’t conservative enough (Dick Lugar being a case in point).
So that makes the selection of a Republican to lead the Secular Coalition for America – a nontheistic advocacy organization (read: atheist) – all the more surprising. And not only is Rogers a Republican who has appeared on FOX News in defense of Republican policies but the Alabama native is a graduate of Catholic University in Washington DC.
Doesn’t she care that they will spank her and take away her elephant pin? They will probably tell her to give back her American flag pin as well. An atheist Republican is almost as difficult to imagine as a gay Republican and we know how poorly they fare in today’s culture war atmosphere (Richard Grenell being a case in point).
However, Rogers has some serious conservative street cred. As MediaMatters reported in 2007, she showed she was apparently willing to spin a lie with the best of them:
In a discussion of the House committee testimony of outed CIA operative Valerie Plame on the March 16 edition of Fox News’ Your World with Neil Cavuto, Republican strategist Edwina Rogers falsely claimed that Plame “had been in Vanity Fair before any of this came out, sitting in a Jaguar, and she did not get permission from the CIA, which is required.” Rogers said that posing in such a photo “was unacceptable for the CIA.” Rogers also claimed that Plame’s husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, who went to Niger to discover whether or not Saddam Hussein had sought to purchase uranium there, “had come back and didn’t give the report to the CIA, but he turned it over in an op-ed toThe New York Times.” According to Rogers, because of these alleged transgressions, Plame “was already in the hot seat with the CIA.” In fact, Plame’s photos appeared in Vanity Fair several monthsafter syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak’s July 14, 2003, column disclosed her identity, and Wilson’s July 6, 2003, Times op-ed appeared long after he delivered his report on Niger to the CIA. Host Neil Cavuto asked: “But she was in the hot seat — she was in the hot seat after she was in the hot seat, right? I mean, after this stuff came out, right?” But he did not otherwise attempt to correct Rogers’ timeline.
It will be interesting to see how long it takes for this cred to be irreparably tarnished. The Secular Coalition says that they are “committed to promoting reason and science as the most reliable methods for understanding the universe and improving the human condition.” The Republican Party (and FOX News) says this is not reason and science but the Bible.
Edwina Rogers was named executive director of the organization on May 3. The press release announcing her appointment touts her two decades of experience on Capitol Hill “as a lobbyist and attorney” as well as her roles as general counsel “for several high profile politicians.” She certainly has the qualifications:
Rogers has been a public policy expert for over 20 years and has worked for two U.S. Presidents and four U.S. Senators. She has served as an advisor to the George H.W. Bush administration and the George W. Bush White House, as well as General Counsel to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. She worked for Senator Trent Lott while he was Majority Leader in 1999 and handled health policy for Senator Jeff Sessions in 2003 and 2004.
Rogers said, “For too long, the 50 million secular Americans have been ignored, underappreciated and undervalued—that’s what drew me to the Secular Coalition for America. It’s time to change that. Secular Americans are increasingly pulling together as a voting bloc that demands attention—a constituency that is due formidable representation in Washington, D.C.”
This constituency is all the more important because so many religious Americans are also part of it, not only atheists, myself, a polytheist, among them. Secular after all, is not synonymous with atheist, however conservatives interpret it. Secular means only the absence of religion, not its elimination. Religion has its role, just not in government.
“Secular issues are not partisan issues,” Rogers said. “All Americans should be concerned about protecting our most basic rights and I want to bring that message to politicians of all stripes.”
Even so, the atheist issue is an important one as the press release makes clear:
The Secular Coalition continues to move forward implementing its own 50-state plan, as well as continuing to focus on advocating for nontheists on Capitol Hill, including expanding recognition of nontheists by lawmakers. Rogers is a strong advocate of the separation of government and religion and is in a unique position to push the secular message to those on both sides of the aisle.
Capitol Hill certainly needs nontheists just as it needs a wider diversity of theists, including Muslims and others. A preponderance of Evangelical Christians is not representative of America’s religious landscape in 2012.
According to the press release,
The Secular Coalition represents 11 member organizations and their members on Capitol Hill. Rogers’ hire comes on the heels of the Reason Rally in March—a Secular Coalition for America sponsored event that drew tens of thousands of atheists, agnostics, humanists and other nontheistic Americans to Washington, D.C. She will begin her duties as Executive Director on May 3, 2012.
This should lead to some interesting times and it will be fascinating to watch the relationships play out. Will Rogers appear on FOX News again? Will she appear on MediaMatters again? Will she appear on both? Can a woman serve two masters, especially when those masters are at opposite corners where First Amendment issues are concerned? Only time will tell.