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.