Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wrap-Up: Edwina Rogers from SCA in San Diego

This is a guest post from Tim Kent who blogs at another San Diego rationalist blog, Reflections from the Other Side.



That's her way in back. Crummy picture, I know.
A couple of weeks ago, I had the oppor- tunity to see a presen- tation by Edwina Rogers, who in May was named executive director for the Secular Coalition for America. It was promoted by the Meetup group San Diego New Atheists and Agnostics.  I did a rough head count and would estimate that at least 35 people showed up—not bad for a sunny Sunday afternoon!

Prior to the presentation, I really had no idea what the SCA's role was in the mishmash of secular, humanist and atheist groups floating around throughout the country. Turns out it's basically an umbrella group that organizes and helps out other groups like American Atheists, the Secular Student Alliance and the American Humanist Association. It also lobbies Congress when legislation pops up that's relevant to the secular community. And with a permanent staff of just 7 people, they have their work cut out for them.

For instance, remember Todd "legitimate rape" Akin? Well, at one point the (now ex-) congressman introduced a piece of legislation aimed at banning gay marriage on military bases, and another allowing members of the military to object to serving with LGBT people. The SCA helped to shoot down the bills by lobbying various members of the Senate.

As for the new leadership, I think the SCA is in excellent hands with Edwina Rogers. She struck me as both hard-working (she made a slew of similar presentations down the California coast over the past couple of weeks and was taking the red-eye flight home to avoid hotel costs) and pragmatic (when asked about the Mt. Soledad cross controversy, she stated quite frankly that the SCA had to focus on more harmful religious issues if they wanted politicians to pay attention). Both of traits are essential when fulfilling such an important role with such a small staff.

Also interesting was the fact that Rogers is a former GOP strategist and current Republican—a relative rarity in the nontheist community. Far from shying away from a side of her that could alienate some of the more politically-minded secularists, she embraced it as a strength. The SCA has to lobby legislators from both sides of the aisle, she said, and her GOP-friendly history helps her make a good first impression.

Overall the talk was very informative. I came away with a much better understanding of how the SCA works, as well as the current religiously-motivated laws threatening secular and religious freedom in America. You can keep up with SCA activities by following their Twitter feed, signing up for Action Alert emails, or listening in on their weekly conference calls.

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