The Secular Coalition has just done something very interesting.
The Secular Coalition for America—the nation’s only full time nontheistic lobbying organization—proudly announced the selection of longtime Republican lobbyist, Edwina Rogers, as its new Executive Director today. Rogers brings two decades of experience on Capitol Hill as a lobbyist and attorney, including roles as General Counsel for several high profile politicians.
“For too long, the 50 million secular Americans have been ignored, underappreciated and undervalued—that’s what drew me to the Secular Coalition for America,” Rogers said. “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.”
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.
The Secular Coalition continues to move forward implementing its own 50-state plan, as well as continuing to focus on advocating for nontheists on Capitol Hill, including expanding recognition of nontheists by lawmakers. Rogers is a strong advocate of the separation of government and religion and is in a unique position to push the secular message to those on both sides of the aisle.
“Secular issues are not partisan issues,” Rogers said. “All Americans should be concerned about protecting our most basic rights and I want to bring that message to politicians of all stripes.”
Secular Coalition President, Herb Silverman, said Rogers has the unique ability to reach out to many of Washington D.C’s power players, who may mistakenly associate secular values with a particular political party or ideology.
When I say interesting, I mean in the sense that I’m highly ambivalent about it. On the one, obvious hand, Rogers is someone who has supported politicians and a party that have worked very hard to marginalize us. She has propped up the party of the religious right and apparently done it well. That does not endear her to me, to say the least.
On the other hand, she will be my lobbyist, not my new best friend or even nifty human being, and my lobbyist on specific issues where we do agree. It’s my understanding that Rogers is pro-choice, supports gay rights, and really is a strong proponent of secularism.
Beyond that, this is an opportunity to test whether there are any inroads to be made in dealing with Republicans on our issues. In fact, this is probably the best test that such a strategy could have. We’ve been saying forever that demanding our rights protects the rights of everyone. We’ll see whether Rogers can get that message where it is so very badly needed. I can think of longer paths to reach our goals, but few that would be steeper. But if it doesn’t work here, with Rogers on the job, I think we can safely say, “No, and this is why”, to anyone advocating a similar path in the future.
We’ll also watch to see that “reaching across the aisle” doesn’t involve kicking the people supporting the SCA on this side for propulsion. In fact, I’ll be watching for that more closely than I would with someone who identified with my side. She has already done harm. She won’t be allowed to do more–or even appear to be poised to do more–without having to justify each step. She already had plenty of work to do just on lobbying. I hope she understands that her past has bought her some more.
An interesting choice, as I said. I’m by no means certain that it will work, but I’m more than ready to be shown I’m just being cynical.