What if you allied the biggest secular groups in the United States and placed their political goals in the hands of someone who's worked in the White House? And again in the White House, and for four US senators? This week we interview our very own Edwina Rogers, Executive Director of the Richard Dawkins Foundation, in her other role as head of the Secular Coalition for America.
RDF: You run both the Richard Dawkins Foundation and the Secular Coalition for America. Where do you get your energy?
Edwina Rogers: Well, I’m happy to do it. At the Secular Coalition for America our mission is to facilitate coordination for all secular groups, to unify the movement. We are perfectly placed to provide back-up office support for any of the non-theist groups.
RDF: What happens when people join the newsletter for the SCA? Do you take members?
Edwina Rogers: We have a weekly wrap-up. We have, every Thursday, a national agenda phone call of secular leaders that everyone is invited to. We have action alert and we even have a daily news clip with 7-10 articles. People can sign up for as much or as little as they like. We have supporters, financial supporters.
RDF: Would you say that your focus is politics at the SCA, or is there a broader vision?
Edwina Rogers: Yes, we mainly focus on government affairs, lobbying at the federal level for all fifty states. But, also public affairs, having a positive, strong image for non-theists, and to also facilitate coordination throughout the movement with all the groups.
RDF: I heard you brought Richard Dawkins to Congress. How did that go?
Edwina Rogers: We were very fortunate to have Richard Dawkins and Stephen Pinker offer a briefing for the House Staff and for the Senate Staff. Richard did meetings with several members of the Science and Technology Committee, and answered any questions they had about science and gave advice. It went very well. A lot of the members knew who Richard was, or their children were big fans. Some of them brought in books to be signed.
RDF: What’s your biggest goal for 2013? Or, long-range in 2014?
Edwina Rogers: I would say our immediate goal for 2013 is to get our first ever “model policy secular guide” for the legislators out and into the hands of everyone in the House and Senate, and their staff. Also, in the 50 state legislatures, we are very pleased to have that ready in the next three weeks. It’s out for layout right now, as a matter of fact. It’s pretty.
RDF: Is this the kind of thing that churches do?
Edwina Rogers: They definitely have a model policy guide. You see many of them and I have copies of them here in my office. It would be good for them to have our side of the story. It is something that Congressional staff will be able to use and have access to electronically. Also, they may only have a few hours to get a memo ready for the boss on both sides of the argument. They try to get it from a coalition, or the best authority there is, on a particular topic, and we were haven’t been out there because we did not have such a guide.
RDF: What’s your background in politics?
Edwina Rogers: I have been very fortunate in that I worked in two administrations. I worked at the White House. I worked for four different senators. I was legal council for government ethics and campaigns, and I wrote election laws for Republican senators in the nineties. So, I have just had many jobs around town. I learned from experience.
RDF: If people want to get involved beyond simply signing up for the e-mail, what should they do?
Edwina Rogers: We have 50-state coalition. So, we are very interested in people serving in leadership in those 50-state coalitions. That is very important. They operate very similar to the national coalitions. They have a website, a cause, and activities every month.
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