Secular Coalition for America announces new Executive Director

The Secular Coalition for American has announced the appointment of a new Executive Director to replace Sean Faircloth (who has taken up a position with the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science). She will be Edwina Rogers, who now has an interview on the SCA’s site.

Rogers is a lawyer and lobbyist who appears to have deep skills and experience in the management of national lobby organisations, as shown by her apparently successful leadership of the Patient Centered Primary Care Collaborative: the SCA states on its site that:

She has a proven track record of managing coalitions and implementing nation-wide strategies. In her most recent roll [sic] as Executive Director of the Patient Centered Primary Care Collaborative, she organized a coalition that included major employers, consumer groups, labor unions and health care providers. In this position she also planned and implemented a successful 50-state strategy.

That sounds good to me. On the face of it, we are talking about a person with high level skills in management, policy development and implementation, coordinating with allied organisations, and all that is involved in acting as the Executive Director of a national lobby group. Rogers appears to be a polished and capable professional, well suited to her new role. (You’ll find all sorts of people proposed in comment threads in the blogosphere, but I doubt that many of them possess this mix of skills and experience.)

Her appointment is already proving controversial because she has a background in policy and legal work for the Republican Party, Republican administrators, and individual Republican politicians. That does not seem to be what she has mainly done in her career – though the bio on SCA’s site (which you can download as a pdf) is a bit confusing. He main experience seems to be economic and general policy work, particularly in relation to the public health issues. Still, her past associations will doubtless taint her in some people’s eyes, and not only because they may raise a question about where her heart really lies.

As far as I’m concerned, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. If, at this stage of her life and career, Ms Rogers wishes to put her (apparently) undoubted legal, political, managerial, and lobbying skills in the service of secularism, then good for her. We’ll see what her priorities are and how effective she is.

To be frank, she does seem to be putting a rather pollyanna-ish view of the Republican Party in her public statements so far – claiming that most in the party do not have sympathy for its theocratic tendencies in recent decades. That sounds implausible, but, really, what do we expect her to say? She’s a lobbyist: she’s not there to alienate the people she is going to be lobbying. I would expect (and recommend) that someone in her position would say such optimistic things, whether it’s their sincere personal view or not.

The bottom line for me is: Let’s give her a chance. I wish her and her new employer well – now to watch how it all works out.

  1. I see that Greta Christina has interviewed her – over here:

    You can listen to the interview or wait for a transcript (I’ll do the latter: I’m too impatient to listen to something when I could read a transcript much more quickly). But it doesn’t sound good from what the commenters are saying. I’ve been positive in the original post above, but this interview may start to give us a first indication of what her priorities are and how her general understanding of US politics might impact on her effectiveness. For one thing, it might start to inform us whether she has a very narrow understanding of the concept of secular government such as I argue against in Freedom of Religion and the Secular State.

  2. Jim P Houston

    for those interested:

    ‘Friendly Atheist’Hermant Mehta interviews Edwina Rogers here:

    And ‘less friendly atheist’ PZ Myers offers his unenthusiastic thoughts on the matter here.

  3. Jim,

    Interesting. My first thought on the matter is that effective lobbying generally has nothing to do with what the lobbyist might personally believe. I suspect that as a professional member of the political class lobbyists would simply do what they were paid to do, serving the Devil as ably as God (the theist as ably as the atheist, and so on) depending on who was signing the checks. Mys second thought was the same as my first, only tempered a bit by the fact that people do sometimes “sell out” their employers in return for greater gain.

    To use an obvious analogy, I would assume that lobbyists would be very much like politicians-only more so.

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