The Edwina Rogers Situation Gets Even Worse

The Edwina Rogers Situation Gets Even Worse July 18, 2015

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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