Month: May 2012
SCA: Really? Seriously? What are you doing?
The communications director at the SCA has just posted a blog post about the importance of bipartisanship. In which she somehow fails to mention Edwina Rogers once AND uses stats that prove exactly how wrong she is. This is a nightmare.
I think that it is more reasonable to say that the secular movement needs to be “non-partisan” rather than “bipartisan”, but I agree with her conclusion — we need to be reaching out to everyone of every party.
However, the statistics she uses only serve to emphasize the point that the Republican party and Republicans in general are much worse on secular issues than others.
But the GOP is not comprised of only conservative Christians. Another recent study found that 34 percent of Republicans (and 51 percent of the general public) agree that religious conservatives have too much control over the GOP.
One cannot use a statistic that says Republicans are far behind the rest of America in thinking that there is too much religion in government as a positive stat on the Republican stance on religion. And you’re just comparing them to a statistic which they are a part of, compare them to Democrats (60%) and you see an even more telling difference.
Then, she points to 30% of nones who are Republican.
As a result, we haven’t been able to reach quite a few on the conservative side who are either nontheists, or who may be receptive to the secular agenda. And there are quite a few. Nearly 30 percent of “nones”—people who do not identify with any religious affiliation—identify as Republican.
To begin with, the nones include atheists, agnostics, secular unaffiliated, and religious unaffiliated. Oh, religious you ask? Yes, in fact over 36% of the nones are religious. So there are more religious nones than there are Republican nones.
But let us move beyond the fact that having a no affiliation doesn’t make you secular, and address the fact that this is still less than a third of the nones. I’m not saying they don’t matter, but to act like this supports the idea that Republicans are not incredibly anti-secular is absurd.
Finally, and this is a horrific misrepresentation of the data, she writes:
Between the Republican “nones” and the 34 percent of Republicans that don’t like where the Religious Right is taking their party– that’s a lot of people we’re missing if we work with only the other side.
Firstly, there is no reason to believe that the nones and the 34% of Republicans don’t overlap entirely. Secondly, the way it’s worded is incredibly unclear and makes it seem like the 30% nones is a percentage of the Republican party and should be added to the 34%, it at least makes it look like those two things don’t overlap. Finally, it completely overstates the percentage of nones in the Republican party. Nones make up 16% of the population, and none Republicans would therefore be 4.8% of the population. 36.4% of the population considers itself Republican, making the nones maybe 13% of Republicans. And again, no reason to think that they aren’t part of the 34% and no reason to think that they are secular.
To pretend that those happy to mix church and state aren’t the vast majority of the Republican party and establishment is disingenuous, at best, and at worst, it is a transparent lie in an attempt to get us to support Edwina Rogers. Misrepresenting statistics is not the way to rally the community around her. And it wouldn’t hurt to make this more explicitly an endorsement of your new executive director, because not saying it directly makes this seem a lot less honest.
The SCA should stick to their main argument, which is that we should be reaching out to everyone regardless of party. Instead they’re playing a game of Lying with Statistics and avoiding every opportunity to be straightforward. I am so very disappointed in them.
And I want to like Edwina Rogers, I really do. I love the idea of a Republican on our side, I really do. But the constant dissembling from her and the SCA is making it absolutely impossible to be on their side, and it’s really quite heartbreaking.
What I would like to hear from Edwina Rogers
Yes, I’ve written an imaginary PR e-mail from Edwina Rogers, the controversial new Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America, based on conjectures and false hopes and a little bit of AbFab. It seemed the thing to do.
“I want to start off with an apology for something I feel like I, and the SCA, have done a poor job of. We’ve done a poor job of introducing me and an incredibly poor job of reaching out to opinion leaders in the atheist movement. Undoubtedly, the behind-closed-doors decision to make what was bound to be a controversial hiring decision should have been tempered by a more comprehensive and immediate introduction and explanation of why I, of all people, was chosen for this position.
I have identified as a non-theist for a long time, but I am very new to this movement. This is not because I don’t care about the issues you care about, I very much do, but they have not been my focus and, because of that, I really didn’t realize how bad things were until recently. My career and my focus have been very issue centered, some of these issues overlapped with my own secular beliefs, but the fact is that issue-focused work tends to create a very insular worldview. So, in many ways, I am a recent convert, not to your beliefs, but to your cause.
Which is where I have made another mistake. This community is very engaged and very well-informed and I have done my best to educate myself quickly, but there are things I have missed on the way. My recollection of statistics about Republicans from 20 years ago, for example, is not really the best gauge of Republicans now. Sometimes I forget that that was an entire generation ago, it doesn’t seem that long to me. And I have to admit that my claims that the majority of Republicans are pro-choice, OK with gay rights, and for the separation of church and state were as much a result of wishful thinking as they were of ignorance. I have had statistics shown to me that do indeed prove I was dead wrong on this front.
And I need your help on this front. I am trying, but I just am not as well-educated about this as those people who have focused on this cause their whole lives. I know the goals of the coalition and am well-versed in those goals and don’t doubt my ability to execute them, but as for the wider culture of the secular movement and the less specific goals thereof, I will need more time to learn the nuances, and I hope you will help me rather than condemning me for my neophyte status.
My final big mistake is that I’ve been trying to focus exclusively on my positives without acknowledging my negatives and without engaging with them openly and honestly. This is a fault of being in politics, it makes you quite the bullshit artist. I should have known better in this community than to think I could dance around questions without being called on it. So let me say that you are right. You are right that I’ve worked for and support a party that disagrees, in majority but not in totality, with many of your goals. But I was working for causes that I cared very deeply about, and I will not apologize for doing that. And I will not abandon my party because other people have taken it in a direction I disagree with. It is better for all of us if we can bring the party back in line with the goals of the secular community and I really do think that is possible.
So, just to recap, I haven’t done a good enough job introducing myself, I haven’t had the time to educate myself as thoroughly as the community is educated, and I have not been clear on acknowledging that there were some negatives to my background. That said, I think I bring a lot to the table that I hope you can appreciate.
I am an experienced lobbyist and I know the workings of DC very well. I have led coalitions in the past and had great success. Although my work with Republicans is difficult for many of you to accept, it gives me an in to people who might not otherwise be as interested in hearing what we have to say. And I am legitimately, passionately interested in promoting this cause. I did not simply apply because I needed a job — I had a job, one that was a lot less contentious — I applied because I have become aware of some of the horrible inequities in this country for people who are secular. I am just as horrified as all of you at the degree of influence the Christian Right has on the government, and I want to change that. I have the credentials to do the job from a strictly political side, but I promise you that I am here because I want to be, because this cause is important to me, and because I think that I personally can make a difference through this position with the SCA.
The SCA chose me because I was, in their opinion, the best person for the job. I wouldn’t dream of asking you to take it on faith that theirs was the best choice, but I hope that you can give me a chance and the benefit of the doubt for a little while. I look forward to talking with you at conferences and through our local organizations. Together, I really do think we can change this country in meaningful ways on important issues.
My Unite Against the War on Women Coverage
I am quoted in the front page story of our local independent paper, the Free Times.
The couple watches as women’s advocate Ashley F. Miller, a doctoral candidate in mass communications at the University of South Carolina, stands at a podium on the State House steps and declares, “This is not just a war on women: This is a war on dignity … 88 percent of the jobs in the recovery have gone to men. Our poverty rate is 25 percent higher than men’s poverty rate. In South Carolina, we’re still only making 76 cents on the dollar.”
America, Miller says, could turn into a place where women in some states could be arrested for having a miscarriage, while the killing of abortion doctors in others could be considered justifiable homicide. (Indeed, lawmakers in Utah and South Dakota, respectively, have introduced legislation to such effect.)
I was interviewed for Voices of Russia Radio about the rally and why it is important. I have actually managed to sit and listen to the whole thing. I will try to get a transcript of this for you, I thought I acquitted myself quite well.
Finally! You can watch me give my speech from the rally. Here is a livestream video of the entire event, my speech starts at around 57 minutes.