Something quite interesting is brewing over at the Secular Coalition for America (SCA), the nation’s only full-time lobbying group that represents atheists and non-believers on Capitol Hill. Today, with great fanfare, the SCA announced that a new executive director is taking over.
While stories of leadership transitions are common in business and non-profit communities, this particular announcement is unique. Defying what many would typically assume, the group has chosen prominent Republican lobbyist and strategist Edwina Rogers to serve as it’s new leader.
The decision to select a Republican, specifically considering the stereotypes that lead individuals to assume that most atheist leaders are progressive in nature, is noteworthy.
In March, The Blaze participated in a SCA lobby training in Washington, D.C. As noted, the group was extremely defensive of the Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate — a stance that many conservative Republicans would starkly disagree with. The group did maintain, though, that it does not endorse political parties, which corroborates Rogers’ selection.
The well-known lobbyist is revered in GOP circles on Capitol Hill. The SCA provided the following information about Rogers in a press release earlier today (her resume is certainly impressive):
Rogers has been a public policy expert for over 20 years and has worked for two U.S. Presidents and four U.S. Senators. She has served as an advisor to the George H.W. Bush administration and the George W. Bush White House, as well as General Counsel to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. She worked for Senator Trent Lott while he was Majority Leader in 1999 and handled health policy for Senator Jeff Sessions in 2003 and 2004.
Rogers’ background is an ideal fit for the Secular Coalition for America, now in its 10th year. She has a proven track record of managing coalitions and implementing nation-wide strategies. In her most recent roll 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.
In 2010, she also made an appearance on the short-lived “Real Housewives of Washington D.C.” series on Bravo. Here’s a clip from the show:
“For too long, the 50 million secular Americans have been ignored, under-appreciated and undervalued — that’s what drew me to the Secular Coalition for America,” Rogers proclaimed in a press release that announced the decision. “It’s time to change that. Secular Americans are increasingly pulling together as a voting bloc that demands attention — a constituency that is due formidable representation in Washington, D.C.”
For anyone doubting that atheist activists are attempting to organize more readily than ever before, Rogers’ comments, alone, solidify this ideal. The SCA has openly proclaimed that it would be prudent if atheists could gain as much power and prominence as the AARP — a goal Rogers’ connections would certainly help the group move towards.
According to the SCA, the newly-minted executive director is an advocate for the separation of church and state and, thus, will be a strong tool for advancing the organization’s agenda. But for those who are surprised that a Republican would occupy such a controversial role, Rogers seems unfazed.
“Secular issues are not partisan issues,” she said in the release. “All Americans should be concerned about protecting our most basic rights and I want to bring that message to politicians of all stripes.”