US secularists appoint former Republican lobbyist to make their case in Washington
In what looks like a surprising move, the Secular Coalition for America - an umbrella group that represents a number of American secularist, humanist and atheist organisations - has appointed a former Republican lobbyist as its new executive director.
The appointment of Edwina Rogers, who has worked for both Bush presidents and four Republican senators, has raised eyebrows among US secularists, who view the Republican Party as particularly hostile to their values, but, as spokesperson for the Coalition told the Washington Post, there is a belief that Rogers’ connections will help broaden support for secularism:
“She can reach out to segments of the population that may be receptive to our message but maybe never heard of us before or maybe associated us with one particular political party. She can help this organization grow beyond its traditional reach.”
While Rogers’ appointment is likely to divide opinion, there’s certainly wisdom in seeking to broaden the appeal of secularism in the US. As Jacques Berlinerblau, author of the forthcoming book How to Be Secular: A Call to Arms for Religious Freedom, points out in our current issue, American secularism is currently beset on all sides, encountering not just outright hostility from Republicans, but a lukewarm reception from the Democrats traditionally associated with its defence. In Berlinerblau’s view, the blame for this lies, in part, with the secular movement itself:
“Aside from conservative religious reaction, there is a second explanation for secularism’s crack-up: a colossal failure of leadership and strategic vision. Those who advocated on its behalf in the 1970s and ’80s had little understanding of who their irate, coalescing adversaries actually were. In the secular mindset these “Fundies” were just a bunch of yokels, sitting on their front porches, cleaning their guns to the musical accompaniment of Pa strumming the gutbucket. In reality, however, the movement had scads of charismatic and savvy, if not incendiary, leaders.