Secular Coalition for America’s Edwina Rogers Featured in The Washingtonian

The September, 2013 issue of Washingtonian has a long feature on Edwina Rogers, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America:

Reporter Libby Copeland writes:

During one of several interviews for the job, the room was packed with staff and advisers who were, in the words of coalition bigwig Woody Kaplan, “flabbergasted” and “incredulous” at Rogers’s presence.

“My purpose was not to interview Edwina to see if she was right for the job,” recalls Kaplan, an adviser to the coalition, “but to destroy her.”

Yet Rogers “turned the entire room around,” Kaplan says. He’s been a civil-liberties lobbyist and donor for decades, school in the art of political sausage-making — but he’s still slightly awed by Rogers’s powers of persuasion: “She walked out and we voted 100 percent for her.”

Most of the information wasn’t new or revealing to me, though, until I came across this passage:

… both this summer and last, Rogers has brought in interns sponsored by the Charles G. Koch Summer Fellow Program. The archconservative, ultra-wealthy Koch brothers, Charles and David, are reviled by many rank-and-file secularists, and it’s fair to say that if these interns were more widely known about within the movement, there would be considerable outrage.

There’s an understatement for you.

The interns should be judged on their merit, of course, and how they performed at the jobs they were assigned to do, but the very nature of the sponsorship makes me feel dirty just thinking about it.

The piece also quotes Richard Dawkins and Grover Norquist, leading Copeland to state: “(This may be the first and last time these two men are quoted in anything approaching agreement.)”

You can read the full article on the SCA’s website.

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.

  • The Morgothian Entity

    Good for her. Its time certain entryist groups learned that the Skeptical/Atheist movement isn’t a leftist plaything, and that a big tent with people pissing out is more effective than a small tent set alight in the flames of ideological purity.

    • Bitter Lizard

      There are certain things on the right-left spectrum that I think reasonable people can disagree about, but the modern GOP is so blatantly anti-reason, anti-intellectual, anti-gay, anti-science, anti-woman, anti-reality and pro-religious bullshit that it is entirely antithetical to the goals of any sane atheist. To borrow from your analogy, I wouldn’t piss on it if it were on fire.

      • The Morgothian Entity

        As someone from the UK (who is pro-choice, pro-reproductive rights, pro-AGW-mitigation, pro-nationalised health care and still calls himself a conservative), I laugh at your GOP.

        But..;.progressives need to stop their insane drive for ideological purity on everything (its what got the GOP into the situation it is nowadays, to be frankly) and realise that Perfect is not the enemy of Good.

        • Bitter Lizard

          I’m not sure I disagree with you, but the distinction between “criticizing people who are wrong” and “going on an insane drive for ideological purity” varies from person to person.

          • The Morgothian Entity

            Its a prime example I guess of the spreading of the Alinskyite tendency to make the “political” “personal”.

            • Spuddie

              Never trust anyone who uses -ite when describing someone with an opposing viewpoint.

              • The Morgothian Entity

                And this is a prime example of the Manichean black-and-white thinking I was alluding too.

                • Spuddie

                  Least of all, never trust someone who feels the need to label anything they don’t agree with. I believe my point of view is really more Dadaist. Maybe even a Carlinite (an adherent to the philosophy of Saint George the Hilariously Observant)

                • The Morgothian Entity

                  Orthodox or Reformist Carlinite?

                • Spuddie

                  Reconstructionist Carlinite. The default rules are always secular but one finds a way to fit Carlinistic teaching into one’s lives.

                • The Morgothian Entity

                  Orthodox or Reformist Reconstructionist Carlinite?

                • Spuddie

                  The latter.

                • EvolutionKills

                  I happen to like Saint Birbiglia the Awkwardly Honest.

                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YbsnGVWmI1M

        • TheKevinBates

          You’re from the UK, these people aren’t in charge of your country,

          We don’t get to laugh at them, because its serious to us. ass.

  • Art_Vandelay

    “My purpose was not to interview Edwina to see if she was right
    for the job,” recalls Kaplan, an adviser to the coalition, “but to
    destroy her.”

    That seems awfully closed-minded. Even if he was thinking it, I’m surprised he admitted it to a reporter.

    • Carly Sturgeon

      I’m actually not surprised by this. These people don’t seem to have any care at all about insulting secularists. They know that (at least) most of their side can’t stand us – want us out of the country.

      • Art_Vandelay

        Yeah, but this guy is the chair of the SCA. He’s about as much of a secularist as you’re going to get.

    • Gus

      Yes, but if he’s saying to show how tough he was on her and defend the highly unpopular decision to hire her, then it’s a different story altogether.

  • WallofSleep

    Ugh. One of the Koch brothers has provided “major funding” for PBS’s NOVA in the recent past. That might amount to nothing, but it still feels as though something I like has been touched by the vile hand of Vecna.

    • EvolutionKills

      Which makes you wonder were the eye is floating about…

  • baal

    I was uneasy when she got that job and still am. Haven’t we learned from the Obama admin years that the right is dominated by dominionists, TPers and the oligarchs? Those groups don’t particularly like us and seem to demand capitulation as a threshold issue for even talking.

  • http://www.allourlives.org/ TooManyJens

    So, some of the leading (if not the leading) funders of climate-science denialism are sponsoring interns at an organization “committed to promoting reason and science as the most reliable methods for understanding the universe and improving the human condition.”? What could be suspicious about that?

    • Ewan

      Meh. Frankly, so long as the interns are working on the SCA’s agenda and not so much on the Kochs’ agenda, it’s fine. Doing good things is nice, getting bad people to pay for it is better.

  • JonHenke

    The Koch brothers are active opponents of the drug war and the Patriot Act, they are pro-immigration and pro-gay marriage and pro-civil liberties (they donated a lot to the ACLU), and they opposed the Iraq war.

    Yes, you oppose them on some issues, too. I get that. But if you want the GOP to become more libertarian and less overtly religious, then the Koch brothers are your best allies.

    If you want the GOP to accept more secularists, then you should stop saying you “feel dirty” associating with them because of views which are not related to religion.

    • Spuddie

      Yet they are the some of the most prominent contributors to politicians who take the opposite stance of all those issues.

      The Tea Party is their creation.
      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brendan-demelle/study-confirms-tea-party-_b_2663125.html

      http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/29/opinion/29rich.html?_r=0

      Frankly Libertarianism is a crock. They always want to undermine the 14th Amendment and make government the best they can buy. It has already been co-opted by the religious right. All varieties of fundamentalist wackadoodle identify themselves with Libertarianism.

      • JonHenke

        Unfortunately, the relevant political party that embraces everything they believe doesn’t exist. The idea that they created the tea party is, frankly, weird. A lot of groups, including those they support, jumped onboard with the tea party, but the grassroots energy was already there.

        You are certainly free to think ill of libertarianism, but it is counterproductive to want to exclude them from the secular movement.

        • Spuddie

          The Tea Party is about as grass roots as astroturf. A deliberate and calculated way to sneak in social conservative policies by getting people elected as alleged fiscal conservatives.

          So far there has been only one acknowledged member who has bucked this trend, Chris Christie. That is only because New Jersey’s population is way too hostile to the religious right’s agenda as a whole.

          There is no secular Libertarian movement except what you would like to see. Libertarianism was already been acquired by the religious conservative set a long time ago. At this point its a label for the same old positions, not an actual point of view in of itself.

          • JonHenke

            I do not wish to argue with your political views. However, your statement about secular libertarians simply is not true.

            • Spuddie

              This is not an argument of political views, its finding fault with facts you are asserting.

              There are plenty of secular libertarians. They are certainly not organized as a distinct movement and certainly not the people who you are talking about. None of them are Libertarian. The capital letter makes the difference here.

              Secular libertarians are an element of progressive liberal politics. People concerned with genuine individual civil liberties. Not knee-jerk anti-federalism. You don’t see that coming out of the GOP. The closest thing theyhave is using such rhetoric to play identity politics.

              • JonHenke

                You seem to be defining libertarians as the subset of libertarians who agree with you politically.

                Meanwhile, there are a host of secular libertarians at places like Cato, Reason, Koch and many other places.

                • Spuddie

                  No you don’t. Not from them.

                  You see people who are very much in bed with religious conservatives. People who use conservative religious figures to sprinkle “God’s will” into discussion of their agenda.

                  Whatever pretensions to secularism are just done for effect. To distance themselves in public. Plausible deniability at best.

        • C.L. Honeycutt

          The Tea Party websites were already set up and ready to go back when the “spontaneous” idea was brought up. It was crafted by an astroturf PAC funded by the Kochs.

          • JonHenke

            No. I don’t doubt that some people had websites along those lines, but some people always do. It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that conservatives and libertarians were pretty unhappy with politics in 2009/2010.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      But if you want the GOP to become more libertarian…

      Libertarian is a rather broad term, but if you’re talking about the current brand of libertarianism showing itself in right wing US politics, then no, I don’t.

    • Mario Strada

      Given the choice between a libertarian or an evangelist GOP I would be really torn on which side I would prefer.

      I have seen plenty of libertarians pander to the evangelicals in very un-libertarian ways. At least, the evangelicals are consistent and transparent. It’s the enemy I know. I don’t trust libertarians.

      • GubbaBumpkin

        I have seen plenty of libertarians pander to the evangelicals in very un-libertarian ways

        Including the Libertarian John the Baptist, Ron Paul. He hangs out with reconstructionists and racists. And he doesn’t actually support liberty, he just wants the totalitarian control to come at the local or state level, not the federal level.

        • Mario Strada

          Exactly who I had in mind

      • Ray

        It’s amazing how prevalent this attitude is among the atheist community. Don’t we have trouble enough with organization without the political tribalism?

      • UWIR

        So, you’re torn between libertarianism and evangelicism… because you don’t like how evangelical many alleged libertarians are? Just because Ron Paul is called a libertarian, that doesn’t mean that he’s what libertarianism is.

        • ObserverDC

          Ah, the No True Scotsman defense in less than 15 posts! Thanks, I’ve just about filled up my “apologist Bingo card!”

          • UWIR

            Mindlessly chanting “No True Scotsman!” whenever someone disputes your categorization of someone is not a legitimate tactic. But thanks for showing how intellectually bankrupt your position is.

            • ObserverDC

              That wasn’t any more mindless than your attempt to exclude Paul, who has run as a Libertarian candidate in the past, from the category “libertarian” I am afraid.

  • waybeyondsoccermom

    You know, not all atheists are liberal. Both my parents and my in-laws are atheists, but they are hard core Republicans. All four are in their 70′s. They are “Reactionary Republicans.” They talk about the “good old days”, dislike unions, voted for Nixon and Goldwater in their 20′s, etc.They are the kind of atheists who want other atheists to keep quiet, don’t complain, just be quiet, etc. They don’t understand all the activism of my generation and of their grandchildren’s generation. They don’t understand why my kids keep attending Camp Quest every summer. All four have spent their lives in hiding, when it comes to religion. Yes, they are atheists with their TVs tuned to Fox News. The only good news: at least they don’t spend their time praying for me.


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