The Edwina Rogers Situation Gets Even Worse

The total clusterfuck that is Edwina Rogers and her lawsuit against the Secular Coalition for America has actually gotten worse. As Hemant reports, she has now amended her complaint to include Richard Dawkins and his foundation as defendants, accusing him of chasing away the “fellows” from her Secular Policy Institute and stealing money donated to Doctors Without Borders. On the first charge:

Plaintiff [Rogers] discovered charitable donations solicited over several years to support Doctors Without Borders’ response to specific natural disasters instead were deposited into the Foundation’s operating account. That account was used for, [among other things], Dawkins’ and his Foundation’s legal fees and other non-charitable purposes.

Plaintiff retained a forensic accounting firm to assure that the converted funds would be repaid and forwarded to the charity. When Plaintiff returned to SCA full time, this work was ongoing.

Hemant has a long response from Dawkins, which doesn’t exactly make this look like a totally false accusation. He says of it:

During a period of transition for the foundation in 2013-2014, Rogers served as interim executive director until we brought on Robyn Blumner as our permanent executive director in Feb. 2014. During this time the NBGA program was ended for three primary reasons, 1) Concerns arose about the program’s management that had to be further reviewed, 2) Another organization, Foundation Beyond Belief, was effectively doing the work of NBGA, and 3) The organization decided to focus on its core mission, the promotion of scientific literacy and secularism.

Under Blumner’s leadership, we hired a team of accountants and legal counsel to answer our concerns about the NBGA program. The team’s job was to ensure that the foundation fulfilled all its legal obligations under NBGA and ethical obligations to its donors and NGO beneficiaries. We followed the team’s advice, with me personally providing whatever resources were needed, and are confident we are in full compliance with all financial, legal and ethical obligations, and that we run the foundation in accordance with sound fiscal management practices.

So there apparently was something amiss with the Non-Believers Giving Aid program, enough so that an outside team of accountants and attorneys had to be brought in to investigate. If and when this goes to court, we’ll then know exactly what went on and what the evidence says. Would it surprise me if money was diverted? Not really. Would it surprise me if Rogers is exaggerating or distorting the truth to undermine her opponent in a lawsuit? Not in the least. We’ll just have to wait and see.

But on this ludicrous charge about Dawkins chasing away the SPI’s fellows, her complaint says:

Dawkins, Shermer, and Dennett communicated in person and by email with SPI donors and Fellows and urged them to resign from SPI unless Plaintiff dismissed this litigation. According to former SPI Fellow Michael Shermer, Dawkins “ordered” him to deliver the same message to other SPI Fellows. Upon information and belief, Dawkins, Shermer, and Dennett did not disclose their affiliation with SCA while conveying disapproval of Plaintiff and implying wrongdoing on Plaintiff’s part.

Beginning on June 11, 2015 Plaintiff received emails from SPI Fellows and donors resigning or threatening to resign as a result of this litigation, including: Dawkins, Dennett, Shermer, Steven Pinker, James Thompson, Rebecca Goldstein, Lawrence Krauss, Carolyn Porco, Ron Lindsay, Stephen Law, Phil Zuckerman, Wendy Kaminer, and Peter Boghossian. Each and every resignation was caused by Dawkins and SCA in retaliation for Plaintiff’s filing and refusing to dismiss this litigation.

In addition, SPI has lost fifteen member organizations due to these Defendants’ actions.

But here’s the problem, as Hemant points out: Several of those people didn’t even know that they were “fellows” of the SPI in the first place, including Dawkins:

I am being sued in federal court in Washington, DC by Edwina Rogers, the former executive director of the Secular Coalition for America and the former interim executive director of and paid consultant for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science. She posits a number of allegations with regard to my resignation as a fellow from the Secular Policy Institute (SPI) where Rogers works as CEO.

In fact, I never agreed to be a fellow of SPI in the first instance. Who knew that in America a person could be sued for leaving an organization of which one was never a willing part and telling close friends about it?

What appears to have happened is that a number of people had agreed to be fellows of a different organization Rogers created under the auspices of the SCA, then when she was fired she created a copycat organization under a different name and declared that those who had agreed to be fellows of the first, SCA-related group were now fellows of her new group:

What’s the deal with the allegations that Dawkins directed people to leave the Secular Policy Institute?

Over the past couple of months, I’ve contacted several of the Fellows who resigned from SPI. A number of them told me their primary motivation for resigning was not that Dawkins told them to leave, but that they never agreed to join the SPI as Fellows in the first place. Once they realized this, they asked to be removed from the list.

Why the confusion? It appears that at least some of them said yes to becoming Fellows of the “Secular Global Council” (an SCA program) when Rogers was the Executive Director there… but they were unaware of the Secular Policy Institute and did not agree to join a group that was separate from the SCA. (A lot of the policy recommendations at the Secular Policy Institute were identical to the SCA Policy Guide, which Rogers also oversaw, which may explain the confusion.)

Daniel Dennett told me: “I didn’t know I was a Fellow of SPI until I saw my picture and name on the website.”

Dawkins added: “I have no recollection of how I [came] to be on the [SPI Fellows] list in the first place.”

Might I suggest that the real reason Rogers’ new group is losing both fellows and affiliated organizations is because of her own behavior, not only for presumptuously claiming that those fellows were part of her new organization without her consent, but also for her own slash-and-burn legal approach to suing other groups and threatening to sue even bloggers who write critically about her, and for the absurd behavior of her little worker bee, Johnny Montserrat, in trying to recruit affiliates to join the organization (he called me several times and I returned none of those calls). Stephanie does an excellent job of documenting that behavior here.

There’s one thing that I think can now be said with boldness: Hiring Edwina Rogers was the single biggest mistake that any atheist group has ever made. And that’s saying a lot, given some of the other things those groups have done from time to time. A whole lot of people were highly skeptical of the hiring from the start, including me, but most of us tried to give her some benefit of the doubt and at least hope that it would all work out and she’d do fine. Clearly, that has not been the case.

Seriously, Edwina, it’s time for you to just shut up and go away. Go back to wrapping your Christmas presents with real money and trying to get on the Real Housewives of Washington, DC, which is exactly where you belong. You had zero background or interest in atheist or secular issues before you were hired and you’ve done nothing but destroy things once SCA let you in the door. We will be far better off without you than we have been with you.

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  • UnknownEric the Apostate

    Wooooowwwwwwwww. Every time I think this situation can’t get more ridiculous, she makes it more ridiculous.

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

    Ed receiving a threat of a lawsuit in 3…2…1…

    Ed laughing uproariously in 3…2…1…

  • http://twitter.com/#!/TabbyLavalamp Tabby Lavalamp

    Well at least the outreach to Republicans worked…

  • Michael Heath

    Here’s Ed’s 2012.05.08 post announcing Edwina Rogers being hired to run the Secular Coalition for America: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/dispatches/2012/05/08/the-scas-new-leader/

    Here was my response @ # 33:

    Republicans pay people to help them lie – that is now a defining attribute of the party and lying is what party members relentlessly do. Secularists instead actually care about truth – with the exception of a few tribalistic liberals. So what in the hell is the SCA thinking hiring a paid liar who is so stupid she thinks she can get away with lying to us?

    Link: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/dispatches/2012/05/08/the-scas-new-leader/#comment-98018

  • Bruce

    Yesterday morning (7/17) here at TAM, Edwina gave a talk on her work at the SPI. She said she is trying to create a global coalition of all secular people, and she has a list of 1400 leaders, and has contacted 300 so far, and it will be at 500 by the end of the year. Her most recent addition I believe was a former Science Minister of Romania.

    She put up some photos of prominent affiliates, without names.

    I think I recognized AC Greyling and Taslima Nasreen. I wonder if those two joined the SCA, and just have not yet heard that Edwina now considers them supporters of a group that is suing the SCA?

    Edwina’s SCI has a vendor table at TAM as well, where she is giving out SCI keychain carabiners and brochures.

    TAM13 has no sign of DJ Grothe, neither in person nor in the brochure. The brochure does start with a sensible anti-harassment policy. And the first talk was by a woman who made it clear she has progressive policies (unlike the TAMs of the year or two before, which I skipped).

    But it is TAM, so the first talk was about Bigfoot, and one speaker today will be Michael Shermer. Progress is slow.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Good. The more time you people spend distracted by things like this, the less time you have to promote the destruction of America and Freedom and America.

  • tsig

    Hire snakes and you get bit.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    Bruce @ # 5: She said she is trying to create a global coalition of all secular people…

    Except for those with initials including “D”. Or those who can detect a scam-in-progress.

    I hope to see her abandon this project for a prominent place in the Trump campaign.

  • abb3w

    @0, Ed Brayton

    Hiring Edwina Rogers was the single biggest mistake that any atheist group has ever made.

    American Atheists hiring David Roland Waters might well have been worse, and that’s within the last half century; and there seem hints there might have been major messes in the 1890-1910 era. That said, I’m stretching here.

  • Rowan vet-tech

    Tsig, don’t you malign my snakes! If you hired one they would not bite you provided you didn’t step on them, or smell like a mouse. :p

  • http://changerofbits.blogspot.com/ changerofbits

    She said she is trying to create a global coalition of all secular people…

    Which apparently means she’s trying to milk as much money as possibly from the “wealth thought leaders”.

    It’s pretty clear that Dawkins is as incompetent at running a large organization (either as an executive himself or in hiring an executive) as he is talking about any subject outside of evolutionary biology or western-centric atheism.

    My advice to Dawkins: Please go write another science or atheism book and give talks/lectures on that. Please leave the secular organization work to other folks. You can support the organizations (though money and endorsement) without trying to create a new one, or run or by demanding some level of control over ones that already exist. You aren’t good at running or controlling them and it’s a huge waste of your own time and money.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    Speaking of major mistakes and American Atheists, has anything ever gotten resolved in the FtB/Jamila Bey fiasco?

  • https://www.facebook.com/jackbishop Jake Wildstrom

    her little worker bee, Johnny Montserrat

    Huh. I hadn’t heard anything about Jonmon since that delightful debacle when he sued Somerville Livejournal users for calling him a creeper. Guess he’s the gift that keeps on giving.

  • colnago80

    Re Pierce R. Butler

    I recall the brouhaha over Ms. Bey’s appearance at CPAC this year but I don’t recall there being issues to be resolved at FTb over that fiasco. I note that she hasn’t posted anything since 3/3/1915, is she still theoretically on this blog network?

  • colnago80

    Re #14

    Ah shit, 2015. Edit function needed.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    As Hemant reports, she has now amended her complaint to include Richard Dawkins and his foundation as defendants, accusing him of… and stealing money donated to Doctors Without Borders.

    If true, that would be a bad thing for the RD Foundation. But what does it have to do with the SPI and Edwina Rogers?

  • grumpyoldfart

    I remember being surprised when Edwina Rogers joined the Secular Coalition of America. I thought to myself, “Hullo, here’s trouble.”

  • https://www.facebook.com/JeanetteM.Norman Jeanette Norman

    At least this isn’t another sexual harassment scandal in the movement, and this debacle has plenty of entertainment value; Edwina Rogers is a real character.

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    OK, who prayed Voltaire’s prayer?

  • Al Dente

    There might be a bright side to this. Maybe being involved in a lawsuit will keep Dawkins too busy to tweet.

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    There might be a bright side to this. Maybe being involved in a lawsuit will keep Dawkins too busy to tweet.

    If we knew who his attorneys were we could do the community a service by sending him a fake letter from them advising him not to expose his opinions on social media for the duration.

    Duration of what?

    Duration of social media.

  • Lady Mondegreen

    The RDFRS can’t manage its funds.

    In other news, water is wet.

    Has everyone forgotten the alleged embezzlement, which ended with the judge dismissing Dawkins’ case with prejudice?

    Or R. Elizabeth Cornwell, ED of the RDFRS and also Dawkins’ then-mistress?

    Seriously, anyone who is donating to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science is as big a chump as those supporting Edwina Rogers and Johnny Monserrat’s latest vanity project.

  • Lady Mondegreen
  • =8)-DX

    You cant invent this stuff. My reaction: Mwahahahahaha… HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    Johnny Monserrat’s

    It’s not that good a cartoon gangster name, really. “Mr Cairo” is way better.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    Lady Mondegreen @ # 22: … which ended with the judge dismissing Dawkins’ case with prejudice?

    Eh? Per Hemant Mehta, Dawkins dropped the lawsuit on grounds of expense.

    I’ll readily concede that “The Friendly Atheist” may be too Dawkins-friendly for a definitive analysis, but so far everything else I’ve found on the case (the wizardly wiki-thing remains oddly silent) either comes from the Dawkins Foundation or only reports the launch of this litigation.

    Got a link on that?

  • Donnie

    @26

    Got a link on that?

    I went through the various links to and from Lady Mondegreen and it appears that Dawkins’ Lawyers missed some key filling dates. That, plus the original contract was oral with an email between Dawkins and Josh stating that the Store is an independent entity separate from Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science based upon the work done by Josh’s business venture for promoting a video series of Dawkins. In other words, it appears that without any legal documentation, Dawkins’ lawyers would not be able to prove embezzlement without lots of additional legal legwork.

    Essentially, Dawkins is not a business person. He is not interested in business. My opinion is that he loves the limelight but hates the work behind the scenes and he does not seem capable, or extremely naive, in his hiring decisions. Again, in my uncharitable opinion of the situation, he has hired people with differing opinions on moral or ethical situations much like those who defended (still defend) Brian Dunning and his good business sense of scamming eBay’s affiliate program. Brian Dunning then appeared to have transfered his money to other family members and business associates through a non-profit structure before being sentenced to 15 months in prison for wire fraud.

    Whatever oral contract Dawkins had with Josh, a moral or ethical person would not have, per Orac:

    Timonen’s . . . girlfriend, defendant Maureen Norton, allegedly used at least $100,000 of the charity’s money to upgrade her Sherman Oaks home before she put it on the market.

    A recent real estate listing describes improvements such as a “custom backyard pool and spa area with a wonderful waterfall and glass block fire pit plus custom seating for the ultimate outdoor living and entertaining experience,” according to the complaint.

    Dawkins claims Timonen made off with 92 percent of the money generated at the store in 3 years.

    As Orac states, had this been a clear cut case of embezzlement, there would have been an arrest. My opinion is that Timonen operated the Store under the belief that the Store was his own business, while Dawkins believed that the bulk of the proceeds were to be transferred to the RDFRS based, from what I gather, an oral agreement between the two.

    Was there embezzlement? Was there misappropriation of funds? Would an ethical or moral person spend the Store profits on family members? My responses would be Yes, Yes, and No. However, without a contract spelling out the obligations and expectations then my answers would be No, No but still No.

    Josh operated the Store to support the video series using the likeness of Dawkins and the Out Campaign to make money. This fiasco, combined with the whole forensic accounting audit of the Non-Believers Giving Aid would keep me from ever donating money to any endeavor supporting the RDFRS.