The Secular Coalition of America announced that Republican lobbyist Edwina Rogers has been named executive director of the largely atheist and nontheistic lobbying organization.
Rogers has a long history on Capitol Hill, having worked in both Bush administrations, as general counsel for the National Republican Senatorial Committee and as an attorney and lobbyist for a number of Washington law firms.
"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 in the group's press release. "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."
The atheist group was founded in 2002 after a College of Charleston professor, who ran unsuccessfully for governor of South Carolina in 1990, challenged the state on a number of religious issues for the ensuing decade. According to the group's website, their original position statement included the following language:
"The Secular Coalition is committed to promoting reason and science as the most reliable methods for understanding the universe and improving the human condition. Informed by experience and inspired by compassion, we encourage the pursuit of knowledge, meaning, and responsible ethical codes without reference to supernatural forces. We affirm the secular form of government as a necessary condition for the interdependent rights of religious freedom and religious dissent."
The Christian Post caught up with Rogers on Friday and asked about her background, religious beliefs and how she plans to use her skills to advance an atheist agenda with a president who proclaims Christianity as his religion and a Congress whose members overwhelming maintain their own personal Christian beliefs.
Rogers is a product of the South, also referred to as the "Bible Belt," and received her education, including her undergraduate degree at the University of Alabama.
She shared some details of her exposure to Christianity while growing up, especially Christianity during her formative years in the late 1960s and 1970s.
"Growing up in Alabama, virtually everyone I knew considered themselves a Christian, but a lot did not practice their beliefs," Rogers told CP. "My family considered themselves Christian but they didn't attend service very often. But I lived so far in the country that I took every opportunity to go to church with my friends."
"Since those days, I've attended many services of different beliefs and during that time I was exposed to nontheistic beliefs."
Yet when asked about her personal religious beliefs, Rogers referred to herself as a "nontheist," which is defined as one who does not believe in a god.
"To be labeled would not be an advantage for me in my role," she was quick to point out. "We represent 11 different groups and if one group appears to be in control, then others tend to back away and not participate as much," she said.
Rogers remarked that the organization intends to beef up its presence on Capitol Hill and plans to meet with all 535 members of Congress and their staffs, all departments and with senior officials at the White House.
"We have grand plans in that we'll be trying to meet with everyone we can and we'll also be looking to work with Christian groups and other religious groups on issues where we have common ground," said Rogers.
Tom McClusky, senior vice president for the Family Research Council, said he welcomes any organization whose objective is geared toward helping build families. "We're all for working with any organization who wants to strengthen the American family," McClusky told CP.
"Two issues that immediately come to mind are marriage and life. We know if we provide parents with the tools they need to raise and educate their children and strengthen marriage between men and women, then everyone will benefit, regardless of their religious beliefs. We also want to work with groups who are proponents of life and recognize the need to defend the unborn."
As a former attorney and nonprofit executive, Rogers has already produced a list of seven major areas, broken down into specific areas that they intend to tackle in the near future. When asked to prioritize them, she refused, only saying that the group would go "where the wolf is at the door."
Some of those items include eliminating the "parsonage exemption" that allows members of the clergy to avoid paying taxes on their housing, mandating that medical professionals cannot deny treatment based on personal beliefs and eliminating government ceremonies that reference "God," such as the pledge of allegiance, the National Day of Prayer and the inauguration.
When asked about the elimination of the nation's motto, "In God We Trust," Rogers said they would lobby to have the phrase removed from all coins.
"I think removing the word or phrase 'God' from our government is important to a lot of people," Rogers emphasized. "Plus, we simply don't feel it's a good use of taxpayer funds to use the country's resources for anything that remotely promotes religion in any form or fashion."
Not only has Rogers gained a reputation in political and lobbying circles, she has also made a brief appearance in "Housewives of D.C" and was once married to another high-profile lobbyist, Ed Rogers. As a result of the divorce, their 18,500-square foot home in Virginia is now on the market.
Rogers was also videotaped showing a real estate reporter how to wrap gifts in paper made of dollar bills that she purchased from the bureau of engraving.