Edwina Rogers is unhappy with me.

Edwina Rogers is unhappy with me. June 15, 2015

I’ve never been the type to respond well to threats.

Flashback, Hemant reports that Edwina Rogers is suing the SCA for wrongful firing.  I followed suit.

This weekend I got a series of emails from Edwina.  Here’s the first:

Dear JT:

I understand your desire to support your friends but you may want to
try and be more factual with you blogs in the future regarding my
legal recourse. I am writing to only you in hopes that you will
correct the situation and no further action is required.

Did Amanda not share with you her written notice that she was seeking
the SCA Executive Director position on a permanent basis? The
correspondence was to SCA board members and member organizations and
perhaps you were not copied. (Exhibit 22). And then later there was
the written formal withdrawal from seeking the SCA ED position on a
permanent basis and withdrawing from the Interim ED. (Exhibit 45).
Additionally, there is the written resignation from the President’s
post before her one year term was up. (Exhibit 76). I guess “the
children” got in the way during this period of time and demanded that
she resign from the Interim ED position, the SCA President position
and withdraw her pursuit of the ED position on a permanent basis. All
easy proven facts that you publicly claim to be the expert and that
they never happened. Yes we will blame all of the withdrawals and
resignations on “the children.” You speak as if you have certain
verified factual knowledge on all matters regarding Amanda Metskas
and her actions regarding me and SCA. This is good to know as perhaps
you can answer questions regarding a missing detail or two. (I will
make sure you are added to the witness list for depositions and
written interrogatories.)

“Indeed, though the lawsuit claims Metskas wanted the position the
truth is that Metskas never even applied for it after the fact.”

As a future witness will you say that “oh I meant that she never
actually completed an application.” Good try — neither did I when I
applied for the SCA Executive Director position. Usually, there is no
application form process for professional jobs outside of large
organizations.

It will be your revisionist history words vs Amanda’s written
contemptuous words; which version will be more convincing for the
jury? I do not have time to point out you other many clearly false
statements. In the future you should start the false sentences with
the words “in my opinion, or I have no first hand knowledge but I
believe this since Amanda is my friend.”

I am happy to share with you Amanda’s written notices but surely
Amanda copied you on these in 2014.

I read on Hemant’s post that Amanda told him she never applied for the position.  I believe her.  For one I know first hand of Metskas’ devotion to Camp Quest, for another Metskas has a solid reputation while much of the atheist community’s first interaction with Edwina Rogers was her wrapping lobbying gifts in money.

I’m allowed to write my estimation of things and I’m not too keen on someone trying to browbeat me into not doing so.  Which brings me to my next point: my mind can be changed.  Had Edwina written me an email in good faith and said hey, I actually have evidence that the statement wasn’t true, I’d look it over and post an update if my mind was changed.  I have a history of doing this.

But let’s not pretend that’s what happened here.  This email is saturated with snark and the implicit threat to haul me in as a witness to give a personal account of what I read elsewhere.  Maybe it’s because plopping me down to say “Yeah, Amanda told me and another blogger that she never applied for the position” will help Edwina’s case…but probably not.

All the same, she is more than welcome to piss away her lawyer’s time and her money taking a deposition from me.

On to the next email:

Dear JT:

You wrote “[a]n anonymous source familiar with the situation has informed me that Edwina Rogers was an at-will employee, meaning there was no contract to breach. Sufficient reason to fire her would be “we want to.” That doesn’t mean that this is why she was fired, but suing for breach of contract seems a little silly.”

Once again you are wrong and should not hold yourself out as the expert on the facts in my case and contract law in general. I do have a contract, in writing none the less, that clearly states that I would be employed as long as my “performance was satisfactory.” I have a written performance review that states my performance was “outstanding”. May I see your proof that my written documents are “silly” or even worst – that they do not exist as you declare in your expert written testimony. There is also a whole body of law around oral contracts that you may want to read up on.

Perhaps I will create a blog (or just get another blogger – should not be hard to fine one) to direct readers away from false statements to see the actual documents to counter your wild non factual claims of objective truths and authority on all SCA matters.

My response:

Can you produce the contract? If it exists, I’ll surely include it.

By all means, start a blog. Best of luck with it.

And on to email #3 (the subject of which was “trying to cause the SPI reputational harm”):

Dear JT:

Your words:

“It should also be noted that Rogers is in charge of the freshly-created Secular Policy Institute which is essentially trying to do many of the same things as the SCA (which means they’re competing for donations with them). It always strikes me as somewhat suspect when somebody is suing what it is, in essence, a competitor.”

Please correct this false statement as you leave the incorrect impression the SPI as a U.S. independent charity has filed suite against a competitor and that the charity is somehow owned by Edwina Rogers. SPI is a large international coalition with over 300 member organizations and approximately 30 Fellows. SPI host’s the World Future Forum.

Please give your proof to substantiate your false inflammatory allegation that SPI is suing a competitor. I just highlighted the top three initiatives of SPI and I cannot find SCA doing anything remotely similar to justify your competitor allegations. Please give your justification that SPI is identical, copying or a competitor to SCA. Will your claim be under oath “oh, they are both head quartered in DC.” Why do you insist on causing Reputational harm to SPI which has no place in the Rogers-SCA personnel matter. You are the first to try and extend injury to SPI.

Further, please give your proof that SPI is owned by Ms. Rogers and that SPI is suing SCA. You may want to be more careful with your assertions regarding the personal Rogers legal personnel matter with SCA.

Journalist have standards and ethics (motto mention fact checkers) and that is why I prefer to deal with proper members of the press. I advise you to stay with your day job “whatever that may be” and leave journalism to the trained professionals.

Please cease and desist your false allegations regarding SPI.

So Edwina says the SPI and the SCA aren’t the same things, which is true.  They aren’t exactly the same.  But I don’t know why she’d make that point because that isn’t what I said.  Edwina even included my exact words (suggesting she read them): I said the SPI and the SCA do many of the same things, which is absolutely true.  She took those words, acknowledging them, and then rebutted the idea that the SCI and the SCA are the same, which isn’t what she quoted me saying.  This is boggling.

Anyway, while they’re not exactly the same (no two organizations are), here are the SPI’s objectives from the “our mission” section of their website.  You decide whether or not the SCI and SCA are obviously very, very similar:

  1. Promote a secular society to the public, worldwide, without rancor towards religion
  2. Lobby governments and businesses, worldwide, towards separation of church and state
  3. Develop, fund, and manage high impact secular projects
  4. Organize high impact secular events, including the World Future Forum
  5. Gather the world’s leading secular books, academic papers, demographic studies, and articles and make them available for decision-makers
  6. Help local secular groups grow and organize projects that engage their entire community, not just their members
  7. Coordinate the nonbelief movement towards these objectives by building the world’s largest secular coalition
  8. Run the world’s largest think tank of secular fellows and coordinate their work towards these objectives

And once you’ve made that decision, move on to deciding if anybody trying to convince you otherwise is trying to play fair.

So here’s what I wrote back to Edwina:

Edwina,

Hrm, I checked my post and don’t believe I’ve ever said the SPI was owned by you (it seems you’re conflating “in charge” with ownership). I said you were in charge of it. Are you not the group’s acting executive?

What’s more, I have no interest in doing harm to the SPI. Any group that advocates for atheists is a group for which I probably wish success (and the SPI is no exception). That doesn’t alter the fact that you do many of the same things as the SCA. The “our mission” page of your website confirms this. This is like saying Camp Inquiry and Camp Quest are competitors for donations. They are because they do much of the same thing, even though I wish both groups massive success. Then again, neither camp is suing the other or I’d say the same thing.

Anyway, I’m unconvinced that the SPI is substantially different from the SCA that they are not competitors for many of the same donations (like I said, read the “our mission” section of your own website), so no, I won’t stop saying that.

But as long as we’re talking about doing harm to the SPI, perhaps it’s time for a prolonged look in the mirror? You are launching a lawsuit against a person virtually everybody in atheist activism knows to be a tireless advocate for the cause and who, even in an environment of increased in-fighting, is pretty much universally loved. Metskas is a person who is widely believed (with good reason) to be one of the kindest and most fair people in the atheist movement. You, on the other hand, are widely known for wrapping lobbying gifts in cash and making donations to the political opponents of atheists and LGBT rights. In the court of public opinion I have a pretty good idea who’s going to lose here (and who is already losing) – you and any organization to which you are attached. This seems to be what you want, not what I want. I don’t say this to defend a friend, I say this because, like the SCA when you were around, I hope the SPI succeeds. Their goals are things I’d like to see realized.

Anyway, what I am willing to change:

I’ll ping Amanda and others to see if your claim about Amanda wanting the position holds up in any substantial way. If I find it’s as you say, I’ll write a post detailing that.

If you produce your contract, I’ll post an update as well.

Because believe it or not, I do care about what’s true. Sometimes we miss it as bloggers (with gaggles of posts per day that’s bound to happen on occasion). The best we can do is correct it when new facts are brought to my attention, which I have a history of doing when I’ve been wrong. But make no mistake: I’ll do it because it’s the right thing to do, not because of your threats to haul me out to be a witness. You go nuts if you think a blogger with no inside access to any of these shenanigans will make a difference (which I doubt you do). To my eye, those threats of inconvenience just speak to the kind of person you are, nothing more.

Rogers taking “you’re in charge” as “you own the organization” suggests to me she’s willing to stretch things.  So as far as Amanda pursuing the ED position at the SCA, perhaps there was talk of her doing it (I now know that there was), perhaps to ensure somebody with an established record of competence in the position.  But ultimately, as of right now, it seems Amanda never applied for the position, which makes the claim that Amanda envied Edwina (and by proxy the claim that Amanda maliciously undermined her) unbelievable to my eyes.

What’s more, when I saw the video of Edwina wrapping lobbying gifts in money, and when I saw Edwina dodging questions in all of her initial interviews, do you know who defended her to me (and to the media)?  Amanda Metskas.  Let no good deed go unpunished, right?

None of this unmakes what I said in my initial post: if it turns out that Rogers was wrongfully fired then she should be taken care of.  But read these emails and make an assessment.  Were they written by somebody who simply wants justice or by somebody who’s first reaction is to try and browbeat people people she perceives to be her opponents?  Does a person really threaten to name me as a witness to reiterate what I read on Hemant’s blog because it will help their case, or do they do it to send a message: “do what I want or get ready to be harassed”?

And as for causing the SPI reputational harm, it seems Edwina has a much better handle on that than I.  The Secular Policy Institute has been claiming particular people to be fellows of the SPI without their knowledge, and that almost their entire atheist contingency has left, according to Hemant Mehta:

That list of fellows included: Lawrence KraussPeter BoghossianRichard DawkinsDaniel DennettSam HarrisSteven PinkerRebecca Goldstein,Carolyn PorcoMichael Shermer, and Andy Thomson.

As far as the secular/science world goes, those are some heavy hitters. If you can say those people are on your side and support your policy ideas, government officials may very well pay attention to what you have to say.

But guess what?

None of those names I just mentioned are on the list of Fellows anymore.

In fact, of the 30 names that were on the list back in April, nearly a third of them (almost the entire “atheist” contingent) aren’t there anymore.

*snip*

Last week, I reached out to all the former Fellows I just named to find out if they could shed some light on those questions.

While some of them did not respond, the ones who did, including Steven Pinker and Rebecca Goldstein, told me they asked to be removed. They have no formal connection with SPI anymore.

It’s my understanding that Sam Harris left a while ago, but the rest of the names have all asked to be taken off the list over the past week or two.

Daniel Dennett in particular told me he asked to be removed from their list after learning that Rogers had filed a lawsuit against the Secular Coalition for America(which made some damning allegations about the SCA and several people associated with it).

Not only did Dennett inform many of the other Fellows why he was leaving (prompting them to do the same), here’s the most shocking part of what he told me:

I didn’t know I was a Fellow of SPI until I saw my picture and name on the website.

Richard Dawkins — who is the subject of one of the damning accusations in Rogers’ lawsuit — said that he requested to be taken off the list after hearing from Dennett.

He also told me, “I have no recollection of how I [came] to be on the list in the first place.”

That’s pretty interesting considering how his image was used to promote the organization from the get-go:

 

 

And at least for now, the cover photo for SPI’s Facebook page still features both Dawkins and Krauss, neither of whom are Fellows anymore:

 

The emails from Edwina continued, in which she accused me of masking a conflict of interest because I used to work for the Secular Student Alliance (which is not a secret) under Amanda’s husband:

Thanks for your email. I did not realize that you were an employee of Amanda’ husband. Seems as though you would want to disclose and recuse, two standard ethical practices. I will check with my legal council before posting any of our exhibits. Amanda has most of them already, given that she is the author of many of them.

I responded:

I was once an employee of her husband, but am not anymore (I quit years ago). But glad to see you’ve discovered a sudden concern for potential conflicts of interest.

She wrote back:

Not sudden. The endemic COIs within SCA have long sensitized me to them. And you are surely aware that the termination of your employment my SSA does not resolve any real or perceived COIs. Perhaps that is why you neglected to recall or disclose it? Maybe now would be a good time so that your readers can appreciate your commitment to transparency, however belatedly.

And if you are aware of and COIs on my part, do tell; I am all ears.

I’m sure Edwina will be elated about this blog post since she shares my commitment to transparency.

I wrote back:

Suing a competitor for donations? Just a thought.

And you think I didn’t write that I used to be employed by the SSA to hide it and not because pretty much everybody knows and because I didn’t think it relevant?

But no, I probably didn’t mention the organization I used to work for because I’m the one trying to be sneaky. Remind me, was it you who wrapped lobbying gifts in cash?

Incidentally, the “about me” section of my blog states my past employment very prominently. Man, I’m horrible at intentionally hiding things.

That was a week ago, on June 8.  I’ve not heard from Edwina since, which includes no emails with the contract for which I asked.

Bear in mind, Edwina’s assertion that I’m intentionally hiding a well-known fact (my past employment with the SSA) suggests that Edwina Rogers has a real aversion to sneaky tactics (like, say, wrapping lobbying gifts in cash).  But oddly, it came from somebody who is using prominent figures to promote her organization who are not affiliated with it, and who assigned others as fellows to the organization who later claimed they had no idea about it.  I don’t mind getting moral lectures, but under these circumstances I admit to an inner smirk.

I honestly had no animus toward Edwina Rogers before now, despite being generally unimpressed with her.  But if she was wanting to lower my estimation of her significantly, she succeeded…admirably?

If I do receive any further comment from Edwina, I’ll post it here.

"Evolution within species is not evolution. It is natural selection. Evolution is supposed to show ..."

Disproving Evolution – Part 15 – ..."
"Populations do not evolve. Populations show you they are not evolving. Unless you are referring ..."

Disproving Evolution – Part 15 – ..."
"You don't seem to get it. The bible is quite interesting and says some true ..."

Am I evil for pointing out ..."

Browse Our Archives