Secular Americans Have a Voice at the Republican National Convention

Once the Republican National Convention gets underway, there will be some representation from the non-theistic side (really!) eager to see if we can actually make inroads into the GOP.

Edwina Rogers

Robyn Blumner of the St. Petersburg Times has the brief interview with the Secular Coalition for America’s Executive Director Edwina Rogers:

Who is the oddest bedfellow at the Republican National Convention, which officially launches Monday? No, it’s not Log Cabin Republicans, that group of gay Republicans who assiduously ignore the “Unwelcome” mat the party has put out for them. It would have to be Edwina Rogers, the new head of the Secular Coalition for America, a nonprofit group of atheists, agnostics and humanists.

The RNC is packed with her people, except that they probably all think she’s going to hell. Several times within the last year, her evangelical family and friends ambushed her with full staged interventions trying to save her soul.

[Edwina Rogers:] If we are going to affect legislation on Capitol Hill, we need to work with both sides. The fact is, there are millions of Republicans that feel the way I do about these issues, and if those millions of Republican voters have a voice, the politicians will listen.

What I am trying to do is increase the influence of secular Americans. At the convention, I will attend every event that I possibly can and speak to anyone who is open to hearing more about our mission.

So much has been made of the fact that Rogers is a registered Republican and has worked for a few prominent ones — to the point where many bloggers wouldn’t give her the time of day, saying they distrusted her loyalties right from the start.

I’ve said before that I think she’s doing a great job in her new position, but this is really the biggest test so far: Can she get Republicans to listen to her when she dons her SCA hat? If she can find a way to get some of the moderates in the GOP to take Secular Americans seriously, that would go a long way in preventing the Christian Right from getting even more power.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Burt Likko

    Quite a lot of Republicans are secular, and quite a lot more are only nominally religious. A lot of secular activists are also liberal, so it’s easy to lose sight of that.

    The question is why so many of the secular or nominally religious GOP’ers are willing to give way when members of the more religious wings of their party demand governmental obesiance to God; political prayers; and the like. At some point, some of them are going to have to summon up the guts to say to religious conservatives “You’re not winning us any votes.”

    Perhaps Todd Akin’s recent linking of policy proposals to non-standard reality, and its providing a rallying point for Missouri Democrats, will be enough for Republicans who care about things other than social issues to say, “Now look what you’ve done, you’ve taken what should have been a safe state for us, and put it in play.”

  • John Small Berries

    So much has been made of the fact that Rogers is a registered Republican
    and has worked for a few prominent ones — to the point where many
    bloggers wouldn’t give her the time of day, saying they distrusted her
    loyalties right from the start.

    Oh, right, it was the fact that she’s a registered Republican. Not that she avoided giving straight answers to the questions which the people she was now representing asked of her. Got it.

  • RobMcCune

    It will be interesting to hear her story after the convention. Based on her previous interviews I suspect she will focus on the positives, so it may not be truly representative of the convention. I’m looking forward to it none the less.

  • Conspirator

    Not only did she avoid most of the questions, when she did answer them she seemed oblivious to there being issues in her party when it comes to religious influence.  

  • TooManyJens

     Agreed. If she’d been honest with people in the secular community and not tried so hard to spin us (seriously, did she think we were going to buy that the Republican Party as a whole is not anti-gay, etc. just because she knows some pro-gay-rights Republicans?), I think her reception would have been a lot warmer.

  • LesterBallard
  • Buzz Saw

     Well, I’ve seen it suggested (maybe on Pandagon?) that many of the calls for Akin to bow out were coming from the parts of the GOP that are much more interested in economic issues than religious issues.  It should be of little surprise that it was also pointed out that those parts of the GOP have had little problem pandering to the religious to gain votes.  It had a Frankenstein feel to it. (IOW, secular Republicans being taken over by the religious beast they…uh, well, not “created,” but certainly fed.)

  • EdStarr

    I agree with several other commenters here.  The woman ducked and dodged and spun when she should have been candid.  Equivocation and evasiveness are hallmarks of the far right.  It makes no sense to replicate their strategy.  Besides, she hasn’t earned her chops. 

  • smrnda

    Never thought too highly of Edwina Rogers. The Republican party – and anybody affiliated with it – seems drastically incapable of handing matters that require honesty and a commitment to truth. It’s a party of ignorance or pure opportunism.

  • Rev. Ouabache

    There is a way to make secularism attractive to conservatives but I doubt many  Teabaggers would be willing to listen. About the only thing that would work on them  is bringing up how the separation of church and state will stop any Sharia law conspiracies.

  • Randomfactor

     It does sound from the quotes above that she may be getting better at answering questions with at least appropriate-seeming sound bytes. 

  • Silo Mowbray

    While I too was initially disappointed with Ms. Rogers, I do have to argue against this claim:

    “Equivocation and evasiveness are hallmarks of the far right.”

    In my experience as a marketing communications professional, equivocation and evasiveness are hallmarks of most experienced public officials, politicians and spokespeople. I don’t work in the PR world, but I know lots of people who do, and dear god they are ALL practiced spin doctors.

  • Octoberfurst

     Well she can try to win the hearts and minds of some Republicans but I doubt she will have much effect.  The GOP has become batshit crazy and totally under the influence of the lunatic Religious Right.  They are impervious to reason and logic. (Note their support for teaching kids creationism, the demonization of gays, climate change denial, the list goes on and on.) 

  • Keulan

    Somehow I doubt her efforts will be very effective at the RNC. The overwhelming majority of the Republican Party is so divorced from reality that any attempts at reasoning with them are doomed to failure.

  • Ferule Bezel

     I’ve never heard of a political group known as “Teabaggers”.  Who are they?  Perhaps you are confusing them with the Tea Party?  The Tea Party came out largely to oppose the bank bailouts but was then coopted by conspiracy theorists, sort of like those who believe in some conspiracy called the “Patriarchy” are trying to coopt secular movements.  The only time I’ve ever heard “teabag” used as a verb was by some comedian talking about a practice alleged to be common in gay bath houses. 

    You need to be more careful with your terms.  Misuse could lead to a lot of confusion.

  • Ah-Ha Ranch Santa Fe

    Really? This person is ridiculous.

  • Sandy Kokch

    Edwina, though I  admire your plucky optimism, may I suggest you follow up your visit to the GOP HateFest 2012 with taking your right hand, and sticking it into a working food blender. You will probably find the experience equally as painful and pointless.

    The anti-science, anti-reason, anti-intellectual Republican Party are, in their own parlance, the lost and the damned as far as secularists are concerned.

    Good luck and good on you, but may I suggest you find more profitable ways to spend your time? Tilting at windmills perhaps?

    The tiny minority of secular Republicans are already sold on our principles, the rest are closed and shuttered minds, and no amount of persuasion will change that.

  • Dwayne_Windham

    The Tea Party called *themselves* teabaggers first Ferule… learn to google.

  • Dwayne_Windham

    Yes… they teabagged themselves (an amazing feat if you think about it)

  • oli kenton

    “Teabaggers” is a term used to mock the Tea Party movement. It came from one of their earlier events where they used the term and of course the internet fell about laughing. Now, while I’m generally in favour of not mocking people but instead engaging in discussion with them, the Tea Party has gone so far off into Lala land that dialogue really isn’t possible. In the words of Matt Taibbi, they are “Fucking Idiots”. When people hold such extreme views absent of any kind of rational thought, mocking them is the appropriate response. Laughter is a powerful tool.

  • Cheron22

    Didn’t you get the memo, the majority of Republicans aren’t anti
    gay, women, education, church state separation, etc… just like there were no
    bloggers who took the time to interview Rogers and ask her how she could look
    herself in the mirror as a female atheist and still be a member of the
    Republican party.

    Hemants given reasons for why internet Atheists so distrust
    Rogers is very much in keeping with a Fox News approach to the truth.

  • Defiantnonbeliever

    I couldn’t disagree more.  I still think it was a terrible idea to put Edwina Rogers in that post.  I don’t think we should work with republicans.  They should be marginalized for the theives and  ignorant dupes they are.  They need to be treated like American Tories and Whigs, in other words gone.

  • John Brockman

    Given the Republican political platform, it’s highly doubtful they would listen to either a secularist or a woman. Why would they listen to someone who’s both?

  • Charlie


  • Charlie

    “The tiny minority of secular Republicans are already sold on our principles, the rest are closed and shuttered minds, and no amount of persuasion will change that.”
    There is no cure for delusion which is defined as a persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence.

    If only they were psychotic. Remedies are available for psychotics but we will never change the mind of a delusional person. They will simply think we are “in on it”.

  • Forrest Cahoon

     I don’t remember any serious action by “Tea Party” (not a real political party, or even a single organization) activists opposing the bank bailouts.  You must be thinking of Occupy.

    The “Tea Party” came to national attention by disrupting Congressional town hall meetings with constituents in order to protest the Affordable Healthcare Act (for which they coined the pejorative “Obamacare”.)

  • NoDoubtAboutIt

    Atheist girls are easy. [/typical conservative]

  • TooManyJens

     She’s blonde, so she has that going for her. Ever notice how practically all the women on Fox News are blonde?

  • Marco

    Even if there are some moderate republicans that may be at least sympathetic to  our side, they are now either a minority or they have chosen to be immaterial and left the nutcase wing in charge of the republican message.
    I could have seen a bridge being built with the republicans of 20 years ago, even 10 years ago, but today’s republicans are lost to reason and common sense.