Edwina Rogers departs


So here’s why I don’t get to talk to GSC people until Monday (or part of the reason, weekend conferences probably being another). Edwina Rogers has been fired from the SCA. Laurie Goodstein and Mark Oppenheimer report in the NY Times.

Atheists and nonbelievers from across the country will muster on Capitol Hill next week for a summit meeting organized by the Secular Coalition for America, a growing alliance of groups that has been giving the religious right an intensifying case of heartburn by lobbying for the separation of government and religion.

But what the Secular Coalition has not made public is that last week it fired its executive director, Edwina Rogers, an experienced Republican lobbyist whose conservative pedigree elevated the profile of the secular movement when she was hired just over two years ago.

Ms. Rogers said in an interview that she was given no warning and no reason for her termination, but suspects that she is being blamed for organization funds discovered to be missing and allegedly embezzled by two of her subordinates. An internal audit, obtained by The New York Times, found that two employees who handled the Secular Coalition’s finances embezzled $78,805, mostly by using the coalition’s credit cards to pay for restaurant meals, travel and plastic surgery. Ms. Rogers said she discovered the misuse of funds, reported it to the police, fired the two employees and commissioned the audit with the approval of the board.

I can’t help finding the plastic surgery item funny.

Ms. Rogers, a Republican lobbyist and economic adviser to the White House during the George W. Bush administration, who has appeared on Fox News and “The Real Housewives of D.C.,” was to many in the predominantly left-leaning Secular Coalition an odd fit for executive director. An agnostic who grew up in Alabama, Ms. Rogers said that during her time heading the coalition, fellow nonbelievers sent her hate mail and made derogatory comments about Republicans and Southerners. She said in an interview that such animus was a “big factor” in her dismissal.

But several coalition board members and organizers, who said they were not authorized to speak for attribution, insisted that Ms. Rogers’ politics and Southern roots had been a big selling point in her hiring, and had nothing to do with her dismissal. They said the reasons were far more pedestrian: that she and board members differed over priorities, and that she initiated projects and raised money for endeavors that competed with member organizations.

I wonder if the Global Secular Council is one of those projects that competed with member organizations – like CFI for example. It did seem to me that some of the plans mentioned on their site sounded like things CFI is already doing, and I wondered why the GSC was all “me too me too.”

So I guess the GSC will be needing a new photo for the front page? Or will they just photoshop someone else in under Michael Shermer’s left arm?

Comments

  1. screechymonkey says

    Eagerly looking forward to comment from The Friendly Atheist on this, after his butt-kissing interview with Rogers.

  2. Al Dente says

    Ms. Rogers…suspects that she is being blamed for organization funds discovered to be missing and embezzled by two of her subordinates…Ms. Rogers said she discovered the misuse of funds, reported it to the police, fired the two employees and commissioned the audit with the approval of the board.

    That doesn’t sound like grounds for firing.

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    … two employees who handled the Secular Coalition’s finances embezzled $78,805, mostly by using the coalition’s credit cards to pay for restaurant meals, travel and plastic surgery.

    What about wild parties at lesbian-bondage themed night clubs in LA? Dammit, there are traditions to be followed in these matters!

  4. R Johnston says

    Hopefully this means the Global Secular Council was her idea and the SCA board realized how phenomenally ridiculous an idea it was.

  5. John Horstman says

    I can’t help finding the plastic surgery item funny.

    Hehe, yup, that was my immediate reaction as well. :-)

  6. MyaR says

    Good news: removing her from the GSC picture would necessitate removing Shermer as well, potentially starting to move them in a better direction.

  7. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Hah! I’d only just now seen this news and was about to post it here. Should’ve known you’d already be aware and have blogged about it.

    Ms. Metskas would say only that Ms. Rogers had “moved on” for reasons she could not discuss because they were “confidential personnel matters.”

    I wonder if those personal reasons involve the way some of the board or people there treated her like, say, Shermer? It would be really good to hear Ms Rogers own account of what happened and why she left although this may not happen if she’s been made to sign a confidentiality agreement among other possibilities.

    If I’ve got this right, (may not have?) – there’s now another (new?) woman in charge of the organisation :

    The president of the Secular Coalition, Amanda K. Metskas.

    Think it will be interesting to see if how she handles some issues and whether she makes some changes in approach and tolerance of the slympitters and twitter channel and and supporting Shermer, etc .. Does anyone know where Metskas stands on feminism, abusing women and critics on social media and so forth?

    @8. MyaR : I don’t know that it would necessitate removing Shermer but I’d expect it means a new group photo. Hopefully a better one and without Shermer in it. Guess we’ll soon see?

  8. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    D’oh! Just realised the word I thought was “personal” in the first quote was actually ‘personnel’ – oops.

  9. Pierce R. Butler says

    StevoR @ # 9: … there’s now another (new?) woman in charge of the organisation…

    Edwina Rogers was the Executive Director, while Amanda Metskas is the President. No doubt the SCA also has a Board Chair & other High Mucketymucks – can you say “organizationally top-heavy”?

  10. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @11. Pierce R. Butler : Thanks for that.

    I’ve actually just thought to google Metskas (yeah, I know should’ve checked first shouldn’t I, mea culpa.) :

    http://secular.org/content/amanda-k-metskas-vice-president

    Metskas is listed as only Vice president there.

    The old staff photo incl. Rogers and Shermer is still up as of now.

    The staff page doesn’t seem to show Rogers, Metskas or Shermer – just a bunch of people who I’m unfamiliar with. (6 of them are women FWIW.)

  11. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    NB. Perhaps this part of the SCA staff page might be interesting given the twitter abuse Ophelia has suffered from them (Unless I’m still muddled up here? Always possible.) :

    Max Nielson, Social Media Specialist Max Nielson is a former summer intern for the Secular Coalition for America. Max generates and moderates content for the Secular Coalition’s social media platforms, working to keep our followers informed and engaged. He is currently a full time college student. – See more at:

    Source : http://secular.org/staff

    Emphasis added. So a full time college student so social media his very much second job I guess? Doesn’t actually specify he’s in charge of their twitter account which i gather is somewhat of a mystery but .. probably the one most responsible for them on all forms of social media – when he has time free from studies? (Or is it that he’s multitasking -studying and social media~ing? Is this usual practice?

    Also is using juvenile slurs derived from the worst misogynistic recesses of the net really “keeping their followers informed and engaged” Dangnabbit, meant to provide some answers and info here not more questions but still. Maybe this helps explain some things for some folks? Hope so.

  12. Hj Hornbeck says

    StevoR @13:

    Maybe this helps explain some things for some folks?

    Sadly, no. The most likely Twitter profile reveals nothing odd, in fact a bit of a progressive lean if anything. Heck, they even follow Benson. The account hasn’t been active in a while, though, so either they had a recent change of heart, got suckered in by kindness, or (my guess) aren’t the person handling GSC’s twitter feed.

  13. Silentbob says

    I’ve noticed a bunch of people apart from Rogers have disappeared from the SCA staff page very recently.

    Compare and contrast:

    The page as it appears as I write lists:

    Kelly Damerow, Director of Federal and State Government Affairs
    Lauren Anderson Youngblood, Director of Communications
    Diana Castillo, State Chapter Coordinator
    Austin Cooper, Director of Operations
    Sarah Marie Levin, Secular Community Coordinator
    Max Nielson, Social Media Specialist

    The Google cache of the same page available as I write (from the 3rd of June) lists:

    Edwina Rogers, Executive Director
    Kelly Damerow, Director of Federal and State Government Affairs
    Lauren Anderson Youngblood, Director of Communications
    Diana Castillo, State Chapter Coordinator
    Austin Cooper, Director of Operations
    Sarah Marie Levin, Secular Community Coordinator
    Whitney M. Brimfield, Resource Development Consultant
    Johnny Monsarrat, Alliance Director
    Max Nielson, Social Media Specialist
    Madeline Schussel, Director of Policy and Research
    Simge Tarhan, Communications Associate

    Of the five people who have been disappeared, three (Rogers, Monsarrat and Schussel) are still on the staff at the GSC team page as I write, with the same titles as above.

    I’ve no idea what any of that means, just pointing it out.

  14. Silentbob says

    Oh, poo. I got sent to moderation for having too many links. So I’m submitting again with one link missing. Sorry for the repetition.

    I’ve noticed a bunch of people apart from Rogers have disappeared from the SCA staff page very recently.

    Compare and contrast:

    The page as it appears as I write lists:

    Kelly Damerow, Director of Federal and State Government Affairs
    Lauren Anderson Youngblood, Director of Communications
    Diana Castillo, State Chapter Coordinator
    Austin Cooper, Director of Operations
    Sarah Marie Levin, Secular Community Coordinator
    Max Nielson, Social Media Specialist

    The Google cache of the same page available as I write (from the 3rd of June) lists:

    Edwina Rogers, Executive Director
    Kelly Damerow, Director of Federal and State Government Affairs
    Lauren Anderson Youngblood, Director of Communications
    Diana Castillo, State Chapter Coordinator
    Austin Cooper, Director of Operations
    Sarah Marie Levin, Secular Community Coordinator
    Whitney M. Brimfield, Resource Development Consultant
    Johnny Monsarrat, Alliance Director
    Max Nielson, Social Media Specialist
    Madeline Schussel, Director of Policy and Research
    Simge Tarhan, Communications Associate

    Of the five people who have been disappeared, three (Rogers, Monsarrat and Schussel) are still on the staff at the GSC team page as I write, with the same titles as above.

    I’ve no idea what any of that means, just pointing it out.

  15. Corvus Whiteneck says

    I know they are eager and cheap, if not outright free (i.e unpaid internships), but what kind of idiot hires a college student to run a national non-profit’s social media accounts? No, no, no, no. The country is rather populous and social media could be managed from any state. There’s a cheap/free person out there with decades of experience dealing with difficult persons and situations in a patient and diplomatic way. But you have to make it a priority to look and spend the time to find them.

    [note: not implying in any way that Ophelia or her communications were difficult, I’m saying Twitter/etc in general can be so]

  16. Silentbob says

    @ 17 John Morales

    Yes, but following speculation in the OP, I wondered if it was a purge of people involved in setting up the GSC because it competed with member organisations. Schussel’s bio suggests she was instrumental in getting the GSC off the ground.

    On the other hand, that theory doesn’t make a lot of sense given that half of the unpurged (Castillo, Damerow, Youngblood) are also on the GSC team page.

  17. Matt Penfold says

    Ophelia, when I saw your post on FB mentioning she had left when you were trying to speak to someone senior, I assumed that you meant she had left for the day!

  18. Maureen Brian says

    I’m putting a fiver on living long enough to hear some Dawkinsite say, “L-o-o-o-o-o-k, we tried having a woman in a senior position and it didn’t work out.”

    By which they will confirm what we’ve long suspected of them: they don’t know who women are.

  19. John Morales says

    Silentbob, the degree of opacity of their decision-making basis is up to them, but it too is indicative.

    (Even Edwina only suspects!)

  20. says

    If I ever embezzle money I’m definitely spending some on plastic surgery. How better to go unrecognized at my next job interview.

    That’s how Johnny Depp did it in The Tourist. Even Angelina Jolie didn’t recognize him.

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