Early this month Hemant posted a love note to the Secular Coalition for America.
I don’t love the SCA myself. I love it now a lot less than I did a week ago (which wasn’t much), because of its “Global Secular Council” and its way of responding to my questions about same. But Hemant, for some reason, is more gung ho about it. He did an email interview with Edwina Rogers that was worded in such a way as to indicate a certain amount of…distaste for her critics.
When you first took the position, the fact that you were a Republican was a point of controversy. Do you still get pushback from atheists who can’t see past that label? If so, how do you respond to it?
See there? Those atheists who thought a Republican lobbyist wasn’t an ideal choice for a secular organization “can’t see past that label.” It’s not that they have reasons for thinking there are tensions between the two, it’s that they can’t see past the label. How friendly.
As a female leader in our movement, what do you think are some of the biggest issues we must address as a community in regards to sexism?
We must continue to fight efforts to legislate away women’s rights on the basis of religion, especially the right of women to make their own health care decisions. Harmful legislation passed in many state legislatures this past year making it difficult or nearly impossible to get an abortion. Supporters claim they want to protect women, but in reality they are assaulting women’s bodily autonomy.
Our society needs to stop trying to control women’s sexuality. A woman’s right to a health care plan that includes contraception and abortion coverage is her choice, not her employer’s, not the government’s, and not the churches’. We also need to make sure we are teaching medically-accurate sexual education in our schools and eliminate the so called “slut-shaming” culture and damaging gender stereotypes that often come along with it.
Not a word about the sexism within the “community.” That’s not surprising, given how cozy the SCA is with Richard Dawkins and his eponymous foundation, but it’s cynical and annoying.
At the end Hemant sums up.
More importantly, I have yet to hear any reason that Rogers’ political affiliation has done any damage. While some of her responses still sound awkward (getting the attention of CPAC board members won’t win her many atheist fans…), I still believe there’s a benefit in getting Republicans to hear our message. It’s not like our side’s more progressive leaders will get GOP members to change their minds about atheists, so if anyone can, it’s her. (And if they don’t change their minds, well, it’s not like we were making any headway in the first place.)
I also appreciate that she hasn’t allowed herself to get dragged down by criticism that doesn’t affect her organization. She appears to be focused on her job — and doesn’t get distracted by commentary from Internet critics (for better or for worse). Her staff, in my experience, has worked in a similar way. They’re dedicated to their work and, while they hear what we’re saying, they won’t be getting into online wars anytime soon.
Another way of putting that would be “I also appreciate that she ignores all criticism from people outside her organization.” That’s a bizarre thing to appreciate. What’s so great about an organization’s ignoring criticism from its core demographic? The mere fact that people are on the Internet doesn’t magically turn them into aliens whose criticism is wholly irrelevant, especially if they criticize under their own names. I don’t think it’s clever of a secularist organization to display contempt for (let’s spell out what Hemant only implied) bloggers, since blogs can after all help with publicity and communication.
I’d love to hear from anyone who criticized Rogers’ appointment two years ago. Has your opinion changed since then? If not, what’s holding you back?
Yes my opinion has changed since then; it’s changed since last week; it’s gone way down.