Interview with Roy Speckhardt, SCA Board, About Edwina Rogers


Some people have been asking about the process behind the hiring of longtime Republican operative Edwina Rogers as Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America. I’ve gotten some answers about the search and hiring process, from Eliza Kashinsky, Chief of Staff at the SCA. Here’s what she said:

The search committee was:

Ron Solomon (Treasurer, SCA)

Herb Silverman (President, SCA)

Woody Kaplan (Chair, SCA Advisory Board)

August Brunsman (SCA Secretary and Executive Director of Secular Student Alliance)

Roy Speckhardt (SCA Board Member and Executive Director of American Humanist Association)

Amanda Metskas (SCA Board Member and Executive Director of Camp Quest)

Myself (as a non-voting staff representative)

The search committee, after completing the interview, reference checking, and vetting processes, made a unanimous recommendation to the Board. The Board (which consists of representatives of our 11 member organizations) was given a chance to talk to Edwina as well, and then voted unanimously to hire Edwina.

And I just finished a telephone interview with Roy Speckhardt, SCA Board Member and Executive Director of the American Humanist Association, about the hiring process. The recording of the interview can be found in its entirety here. Here is the URL:

Again, my time is beyond impossible this week, and I just don’t have time to transcribe this interview. If anyone is up for the job, I would once again be hugely grateful. (It’s not quite as long as the Rogers interview, btw, and there’s less cross-talk, so it should be easier to transcribe.) And again, the first person to get me an accurate transcript of the interview will get a free copy of my new book, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, in either e-book format (right away) or in print (when the print edition is published in June). If nobody can do do it, I’ll transcribe it myself as soon as I possibly can.

And once again: I’ll comment on the interview, and more generally on the selection of Rogers to this position, as soon as I possibly can. Thanks for your patience.

Comments

  1. Pteryxx says

    oh fff – and HUGE THANKS GRETA for taking point on this issue and getting the interviews!

  2. Greta Christina says

    I can do the transcript.

    TooManyJens @ #2: Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    Greta, what file format do you want it in?

    .doc would be fine.

  3. Jeff Sherry says

    Thanks for the 2nd interview Greta. Maybe I’ll be happier with this appointment 2 months down the road.

  4. joed says

    what the heck is a “nontheist” and when will you ask that question to SCA or Edwina.

  5. woo_monster says

    I am 2/3rds the way through, but I had to pause it to comment. Greta asked about his thoughts on Rogers’ denial of the fact that the Republican party is predominantly anti-gay, anti-seperation… ect. Speckhardt responded by saying,

    I don’t mean to be in your face about that, but I could say that you are unaware that there are republicans out there who take a view different from the monolithic one.

    facepalm.

    Way to follow up with Speckhardt after his repeated dismissals of this disturbing behavior by Rogers.

    After waffling his response was ultimately that we don’t want to demonize Republicans. Piffle. I resent the notion that we need an executive director to lie to us about the reality of the Republican Party in order to appease them.

  6. woo_monster says

    Ha, Speckhardt liked the fact that she was refusing to answer questions and was using “reiteration” to drive home her talking points*.

    And nice catch on the complete contradiction of his claim that she wasn’t being evasive and his comments that sticking to talking points is an effective strategy of communication.

    I don’t know how much waffling and deliberate attempts to avoid answering clear, concise questions I can take.

    *Wait, now he is claiming that Rogers DIDN’T do this, but she should have?

  7. MissEla says

    Wow. Just…. Wow. Is it just me, or was that interview a whole lot of “Nuh-uh!” “La-la-la, I can’t *heeeeaaaaarrrr* yoooou!” and doubling down? ‘Cause that’s sure what I heard.

    Here’s a tip, Mr. Speckhardt & the rest of the board: Google. It’s your friend. Stuff your rose-colored glasses in your pocket and look around. See what people are saying about her. Read the abysmal AMA on reddit. Read blog reviews, especially ones that have interviews (like Greta did–thanks, Greta!). I have yet to read anything overtly positive about her appointment. Open your eyes and ears, and you’ll see that, too.

  8. joed says

    @Robert B.
    thanks for the definition. It is helpful to know what a word means–less strident, of coarse!

  9. says

    So basically, the point of this interview is to ask, “How can we get her fired?” I think that is a pretty poor goal. Maybe you should have asked, “How can we help Edwina Rogers succeed in her new job?”

  10. Robert B. says

    Oh, please tell me he used the word “demonize.” Is that really the word he used? Because the Republican party has made itself a haven and a soapbox for all the people who say that we’re going to hell and we want to trick their kids into hell and if anyone listens to us the whole country’s going to hell. We are literally being demonized. So please tell me that this guy tried to express the idea that it’s unfair of us to call the Republican party out on the shit they explicitly write in their party platform, by saying that we are demonizing them.

    I’ve been feeling guilty about the idea of not supporting the SCA because of this hiring decision. But if the board is backing up her claims with lines like that, my guilt is going to evaporate really damn quick.

    (And by the way, what’s with this trend of “you’re not allowed to point out that our official documents are full of horrible crap?” The Bible, the GOP platform – I guess it would be so much easier for folks if our criticisms of them weren’t all accurate and factual.)

  11. Woo_Monster says

    Oh, please tell me he used the word “demonize.” Is that really the word he used?

    Confirmed. I just re-listened. Here is the quote,

    She’s [Rogers is] thinking, look I just got hired, I’m going to be reaching across to republicans to bring them into this movement…
    I want to paint them in this way that I can reach out to them, and bring them along. So it doesn’t make sense to demonize them from the start. So I don’t blame her for being hesitant to take the bait that you offered and demonize the republican Party that she comes from that she wants to reach out to. That just doesn’t make any sense.

    Blegh, what a frustrating response. Greta wasn’t “demonizing” the Republican party by stating the plain truth that they are anti-gay, ant-women, ant-seperation of church and state. She wasn’t casting out “bait” that Rogers was supposed to take, and then be snared in some trap. It is a fact that the Republican Party predominantly opposes secular causes and values. It is worrying that Rogers will not recognize this. It is worrying that the SCA board and Roy Speckhardt thinks this concern is invalid, that it is merely an attempt to “demonize” the GOP, and that it can be dismissed.

  12. Woo_Monster says

    So I don’t blame her for being hesitant to take the bait that you offered and demonize the republican Party that she comes from that she wants to reach out to. That just doesn’t make any sense.

    If reaching out to the Republicans involves sticking your head in the sand and refusing to acknowledge and address the evils being perpetuated by them, then I am against reaching out.

  13. says

    That wasn’t a trap question. I can think of plenty of possible good answers. It sounds like Rogers was trying to spin and Speckhardt was trying to spin her spin to make it sound less like spin. If she had said that the Republican party isn’t monolithicially anti-gay and she needs to convince a few legislators, not the committee that writes the platforms, or if she had pointed out that anti-gay positions are being compromised away and she can keep pushing things in that direction, I don’t think many people would have had a problem with that. Instead, she tried to argue that it wasn’t fair to say the GOP was generally anti-gay.

  14. says

    Why am I not surprised that Speckhardt’s responses are the same “centrist” false balance bullshit that John D and other defenders of Rogers were throwing out all over FTB?

    And why don’t they just cut the pretense and hire Jonathan Haidt to condescend to us about how we’re all just as bad as the fundagelical theocrats bent on marginalizing and ostracizing us?

  15. godlesspanther says

    Thank you Too many Jens for writing the transcript! I am looking to get a new computer soon so I can enjoy the talkies. My current computer has not caught up to 1925.

    I will be able to comment more after the written version comes out.

    One of the things that has bothered me from the interview with Hemant Mehta and is still bothering me is the minimization of who the real threat is — the Christian right. If there is some gaggle of repubs in DC who really are pro-choice, pro-gay, pro-church/state separation — why don’t they talk about it openly? DO they just keep forgetting?

    The way I see it is that there are some republicans holding political office who may not agree with the fundie agenda (ER may be partially right about that) but they have to march to the fundie drummer because if they don’t — they will be destroyed.

    ER has maintained high level of confidence since she became head of SCA. She has been speaking with optimism and dotting her I’s with happy faces.

    That is a good indication that she has no intention of doing anything at all.

    The Christian right in the US is known and confirmed as a violent terrorist organization. The reason it is hard to go against them is because it’s dangerous.

    If Edwina is not scared shitless — she’s not going to do anything.

  16. says

    If I’m understanding the end of the interview, her job isn’t to impress us and it doesn’t really matter what we think of her. It’s how well she schmoozes on the hill that counts. That’s great, except her schmoozing is supposed to be on our behalf.

  17. eigenperson says

    My understanding of this whole fiasco is that the SCA’s position is something like this: “We’re a lobbying organization, so what we do is primarily about being cozy with the politicians and not so much about advocating passionately for a certain viewpoint.”

    To me, that is a good justification for hiring someone like Rogers who is very good at being cozy with politicians and has no comprehension of the viewpoint she is supposed to be advocating.

    However, it is also a good justification for me to have nothing whatsoever to do with the SCA.

  18. Robert B. says

    If you just want to schmooze with politicians without advancing any policy positions, open a classy restaurant.

    The SCA has actual work to do, which it cannot accomplish by ignoring the fact that political forces are aligned against it. Not saying that the GOP leadership opposes secular issues will not make them change their minds to match your statements. Not admitting that they’ll be asking every Republican they lobby to vote against their party will not fool the Republicans themselves – the party whip has their cell numbers, they know the score.

  19. Jeff Sherry says

    Danger, no, the interview revolves around:
    1. Ms. Rogers past history.
    2. Her inability to not recognize that the majority of common republican voters are affirming the present republican party that strongly supports the theocratic policies put forth in congress and at the state levels.
    3. Her ability to deflect questions about her past history and her closed eyes to the theocized republican party.
    4. Her unconcern of Bush’s belief initiatives.
    5. As a non-theist her sudden awareness as a new lobbyist that she lacks a history of outspokenness on secularism, equal rights, the sciences, education…

    The interview had nothing to do with “how to fire her”, it has everything to do with what is going on at the SCA.

  20. llewelly says

    godlesspanther May 8, 2012 at 11:29 pm :

    If there is some gaggle of repubs in DC who really are pro-choice, pro-gay, pro-church/state separation — why don’t they talk about it openly? DO they just keep forgetting?

    Compare the interviews with Edwina Rogers with Ed Brayton’s interview with Fred Karger, which you can find on the public reality radio website, under his show Culture Wars Radio. (I tried to link it. No comments containing links appear.)

    The contrast between his portrayal of the Republican party – of which he is still a member – and Edwina Rogers’ portrayal of the Republican party is striking. I do think he engages in a certain amount of amount of nostalgia – much of it not plausible – and expresses much more hope for the future of gay rights in the Republican party than I think is justifiable. But he is very clear that the Republican party is presently profoundly anti-gay. He shows quite clearly that it is possible to hold and work for values the Republican party strongly opposes, and yet not engage in the kind of dishonesty Edwina Rogers engaged in.

  21. Midnight Rambler says

    The contrast between his portrayal of the Republican party – of which he is still a member – and Edwina Rogers’ portrayal of the Republican party is striking.

    Exactly. It’s not that she is a Republican, it’s that I can think of half a dozen ways she could have used the actual true situation to spin the argument that she’s the right person for the job.

    For example, she could say that while the party is mostly in line with the anti-gay rights and other religious right positions, there are those like her who don’t believe in it personally, and with most Democrats already voting on our side it only takes a few switching their votes to affect legislation. So she could be effective by using her connections to find and persuade legislators to vote their conscience on our issues.

    The thing is, she didn’t do that. She just recited a lot of garbage that’s patently obvious baloney. Which, besides the fact that she’s either lying or delusional, suggests that she’s also not a good lobbyist, and kind of defeats the whole point of hiring her regardless.

  22. says

    Ace reporter Greta Christina is on the case! ;-) Seriously, great job, Greta, and thank you so much for pursuing this with such tenacity. I think you may have found a new calling as an investigative journalist. :-)

    I would like to re-emphasize that point, in case my encouragement comes across as superficial. I think what you did here with this interview and the previous one was so important; it is what’s missing in journalism today: pursuing truth and accountability, and not just taking the pat answers and lip-service spin as a given.

    I’m incredibly disappointed with Rogers and Speckhardt, but I’m extremely encouraged to be part of this community of individuals who can see through the bullshit answers and not be complacent or apathetic about it. We do not have to put up with this shit. The same-old same-old politics that has gotten us in this mess in the *first* place!

    Personally, I see this in the extreme long-term. On issues like this, I always ask myself, “Which side of history do I want to be on?” And when it comes to something as important as influencing the politics of one of the most powerful countries on our Pale Blue Dot, personally I will not allow myself to end up on the side that sold-out our future for a chance to schmooze with the ‘insiders’. Fuck that shit, I say. I will not support that. That kind of thinking is exactly why US politics is so fucked up in the first place. “You can’t win if you don’t play the game,” they say. I say, “Fuck that. The game is rigged. You can’t lose if you don’t play, either. Let’s play a better game instead.”

    The way out of this mess we’re in is to do exactly as Greta Christina did in her interviews. Ask the tough questions, raise the tough issues, and don’t take the bullshit at face value. Keep raising a ruckus. Pop the hot-air balloons and bring the conversations back down to the ground. We get one chance at life. We don’t have to settle for second- or third-best.

    So, kudos to Greta Christina, and many thanks again!

  23. ivo says

    I heartily agree with everything that Thaumas Themelios said.
    I would repeat it in my own words for emphasis, except that that was already perfect.

    And I don’t even live in the US. But indeed, we should have the extremely long term and big picture here, and it’s undeniable that what happens in the US on this front is likely to have important consequences for the whole Pale Blue Dot.

  24. carlie says

    I don’t mean to be in your face about that, but I could say that you are unaware that there are republicans out there who take a view different from the monolithic one.

    Gaaa. To be in your face about that, Mr. Speckhardt, we don’t give a shit about individual Republican’s views. It’s the goddamned official party platform used to tell Republican legislators how to vote on laws that we fucking care about.

    Seriously, did they all just get blinded by the opportunity to have a big feather in their caps bagging a super-Republican, and not even think at all about whether or not she’d be good at her job?

  25. carlie says

    I was so frustrated I put an apostrophe in the wrong place. I has an ashamed.

  26. carlie says

    I would like to know what goals were set for her to achieve success in this job, how they will be measured, and what actions will be taken if she doesn’t fulfill those job requirements.

  27. KG says

    sticking to talking points is an effective strategy of communication. – Speckhardt as reported by woo_monster

    Well it is if you’re talking to people who either aren’t very bright, or aren’t that bothered about the issue. Evidently that’s how the SCA sees its supposed constituency.

  28. Greg says

    Sorry, I meant to post that comment on the previous blog post with Edwina’s interview.

  29. Zengaze says

    I’ll wait for the transcript. But the summary is;

    We were in awe at the names she dropped at the interview. Seriously when she said Bush, my jaw hit the floor and I knew we had to have her.

    Her job isn’t really to represent or know what we espouse, it’s to convince her buddies that we could be republicans if they hung out less with the crazy Jesus freaks.

    You can’t blame her for not accepting reality, she’s a spin doctor, and they don’t deal in reality. Reality is subjective anyway it’s all about how you paint it. And anyway how is she supposed to convince her buddies we will vote for them, if she’s spinning them as if they are republicans, duh.

    Se wasn’t evading answering your questions she was focusing on her script, and pivoting to talking points when asked questions, I’d have liked to see her pivot more. What I didn’t contradict myself! I just said she didn’t pivot to talking points enough so the logical conclusion is that she was answering your questions.

    In the end we don’t really give a shit what the plebs who pay us think, we expected this so your arguments are moot. We know what’s best for the movement, just get on the team, it’s all going to blow over anyway, so we had even scripted our double down to deal with the skeptic atheist extremists. See how smart we are, you have to have faith in us if the prophecies we make are demonstrated to come true.

  30. bastet says

    I hope we start hearing more from Sean Faircloth – who actually does understand the issues that are important to the secular movement and is not afraid to identify himself as an atheist.

    You go Sean!!! So glad to see you with the Richard Dawkins Foundation.

  31. Zengaze says

    Now hear this: this is an advisory from the ministry of political correctness at the secular coalition.

    We do not think it is helpful to the broader fight if we continue to use the term atheist, it has become so 2010 and makes us look unreasonable, therefore people who don’t believe Jesus is their deity should help us all by calling themselves seekers. Come on now guys and girls, and people of genders which we need to ask edwina how to refer to, help us out and sacrifice a little.

    Oh and just to remind you we’re throwing a get to know you with the fantastic Mr Romney, we’ve been at lots of meetings with him lately and he really understands where we need to be at, but just to remind you all questions to be submitted to edwina for vetting, and if you could cheer him when he comes into the room, that would really help us in bringing him over.

  32. andrea says

    as has been said already, Thaumas’s post has it right.

    After the Amendent 1 passage in North Carolina last night, and the further attempts by the Republicans to control women, Rogers’ and Speckhardt’s claims are simply false and full of amazing willful ignorance. No amount of spin makes a lie not a lie especially in this information age.

    I’ve heard this excuse “but but there are some reasonable Republicans around, honest!” with the word “Republican” replaced by Christian. And in both cases, these reasonable ones never seem to be able to actually make themselves known at all. If there are “moderates” of either group, then they are simply enablers for the lunatics with their deafening silence.

  33. Scott says

    The rationale for hiring ER seems to be that she knows of GOPs whose values roughly align with our own – supporting separation of church and state, LBGT rights, science-based education etc, and that she can reach out to these people.

    I would counter this strategy with the following questions:

    How many are there, and more importantly, how many would be prepared to give meaningful support to secular values when it means going against the official policies of the GOP and the vast majority of their party members?

    Would it not be more productive use of our limited financial resources to lobby politicians who are already more philosophically aligned with us? A number of them probably just need some prodding, persuasion and education to bring them onside with our concerns. Even progressive politicians need to know that they have the committed backing of a significant number of their constituents before they will feel comfortable in pursuing progressive goals, especially ones that are sure to raise very vocal opposition from the religious right. And in many cases, they may not be fully informed on the issues. It should be our job to both educate them and assure them that a lot of people will back them up when they speak out.

    While ER may have some success reaching out to closeted GOPs, I seriously doubt that we will see these people fight against the party machinery and openly support secular issues. And from Greta’s interview, I think that ER would be very ineffective in lobbying to politicians who already share our values.

    Let’s plant our seeds carefully in fertile ground, not scatter them across clay and rocks.

  34. John Horstman says

    Oh, goodie, Speckhardt is flat-out lying to us too! The hire makes more sense, if this is the attitude of the selection committee. “Oh, good, she’s not answering any of our questions for her; she’s ignoring them and hammering talking points on why we should hire her. She’s a perfect lobbyist!”

    Is there any way to decouple the SSA from the SCA?

    @9: Yeah, all of this arguing against strawmen is really starting to bug me. No one, as far as I know, has claimed that every single person who votes Republican or adopts the label ‘Republican’ is e.g. anti-gay (we know the Log Cabin Republicans exist, for example). We’re saying that the majority of Republicans are anti-gay, and that the party as a whole has adopted anti-gay platforms. These are matters of empirical fact: Google will serve up any number of polls and platform statements that demonstrate this. It’s increasingly disturbing that Rogers and apparently the SCA think that if they just repeat the same lie over and over, in contradiction to evidence we’re staring at, we’ll somehow believe them. If you could pick one demographic group on whom this strategy was least likely to work, it would be skeptics. How do they not see that?

    @31: Exactly; well said.

  35. baal says

    @ Dangerous

    Even if we grant ER that she’s reframing the mindset of the (R), it’s such a long and incredulous step from reality that you’re losing (lost!) the base.

    Your base is not solid enough (due to lack of transparency or throwing them (me!) a bone or somethings else) to traipse into la-la land on the re-framing.

    If reading FTB and consuming related secular media has taught me anything it is that you can’t expect this community to roll over and play dead merely by ignoring it or feeding it statements that bare no resemblance to the truth.

  36. jrel says

    If being anti-gay, ant-women, ant-seperation of church and state are ‘demonizing’ on their own, then why does the republican party embrace them?

    This isn’t a rhetorical question. I’m serious, and I wish Greta would have asked this question.

    Imagine the flip side. Imagine she was hired as an executive for Focus on the Family, but was a democrat, and she was being interviewed by a blogger representing a conservative cause. Would the democratic party feel like they were being ‘demonized’ if they asked her why she supports a party that is pro-gay, pro-women, and for separation of church and state? Would the democratic party feel ‘demonized’ to have these (obvious) things acknowledged publicly?

    I’d like to re-iterate my conclusion that many republicans are NOT religious, just like Edwina says. They wear religion like sponsorships on their suites to get votes, and take them off when they get home.

    The good news about this:
    1. They have some shame in this, otherwise they wouldn’t fear being ‘demonized’ over it.
    2. Perhaps there are more skeptics out there than we realize

    The bad news about this:
    1. They are willing to sacrifice their integrity for votes/money.
    2. They are willing to throw us under the bus for the same.

    But I truly believe that they will soon learn that getting in bed with bad people will eventually lead to bad things. Perhaps this upcoming election is a good sign of it. The religious right doesn’t have a candidate. They are forced to vote for the lesser of two evils. Likewise, in the last election with McCain/Obama they were left with no clear ‘good’ choice. I like to think this is a sign of what is to come, and that perhaps someday soon, the sponsorship of bigotry will be a hindrance to a campaign, instead of a boost.

  37. jamessweet says

    Dear Mr. Speckhardt and Ms. Rogers,

    The words “all”, “most”, and “many” each have different definitions.

    If you want to tell us that “many” Republicans are pro-choice, pro-gay, and pro-secular, and that you want to reach out to those Republicans and bring their voice into the GOP mainstream, many of us will be accepting of that.

    But if you try to tell us that “most” Republicans are pro-choice, pro-gay, and pro-secular, then you are going to lose us: that is known as “bullshit”. If you pretend that anyone here ever said “all” Republicans are anti-choice, anti-gay, and anti-secular, then you are going to lose us: that is known as “strawman”.

    Furthermore, while this may come as a surprise, “most” people in the secular community have access to an Internet connection. “Many” of us even know how to use Google. In light of this, it may have been unwise to claim that you “don’t recall seeing a [Republican] party line position that says that you have to be pro-life.” If you do that, then you are going to lose us: that is known as “are you fucking kidding me?!?”

    Sincerely,
    SWATDAG (Secularists with Access to Dictionaries and Google)

  38. Amanda says

    Here is a profile of Edwina Rogers that shows just how Republican she is: wrapping presents in dollars bills…

  39. Marcel Kincaid says

    Greta asked about his thoughts on Rogers’ denial of the fact that the Republican party is predominantly anti-gay, anti-seperation… ect. Speckhardt responded by saying,

    I don’t mean to be in your face about that, but I could say that you are unaware that there are republicans out there who take a view different from the monolithic one.

    What a grossly offensive, dishonest, non sequitur, strawman, false charge.

  40. Marcel Kincaid says

    I’ve heard this excuse “but but there are some reasonable Republicans around, honest!” with the word “Republican” replaced by Christian. And in both cases, these reasonable ones never seem to be able to actually make themselves known at all.

    Sorry, but that’s as dishonest as anything Rogers or Speckhardt said. There is absolutely no equivalence between the narrowness of political views among Republicans and the range of political views among Christians. Remember that every national politician, with the exception of Pete Stark professes to be religious, including every Democrat … people such as Barack Obama and Dennis Kucinich.

  41. interrobang says

    In the Washington Post profile indyactivist linked to, Edwina Rogers describes herself as “I’m just a little girl from Alabama.”

    Blurch.

    Seriously, someone who talks about herself in infantilising, sexist terms is supposed to be the new spokesperson for American high-profile political secularism?

    The rhetoric, she is disconnect…

  42. Eliott says

    I was wrong…this is much much worse than I thought. I read the available information about Edwina and heard the interviews but just scanned the note Greta added about the process. Not only did the search committee unanimously vote to recommend her but representatives of the member organizations unanimously voted to hire her. How can there be such a disconnect between what Greta asked and discovered versus the search committee versus the board. This was a circle jerk fuck up at so many levels that it will be the standard bearer I will carry into business meetings of examples of total incompetence from a hiring perspective and a roll out perspective.

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