Originally Published: Washingtonian Magazine • September 4, 2013
The Secular Coalition for America, the 11-year-old lobbying arm for Americans who want religion out of the public square, is a mostly left-leaning group. The people on its staff and in its member organizations would like to take “under God” out of the Pledge of Allegiance and in god we trust off of US currency. They support gay marriage, think contraception should be more broadly available, and work against school vouchers that use public funds to support “religious indoctrination.”
All of which makes the Secular Coalition’s choice of a new executive director so surprising. Her name is Edwina Rogers, and she’s a lifelong conservative Republican. The walls of her office at the coalition’s small suite near K Street are decorated with, among other things, a huge framed Christmas card signed by George and Laura Bush, a memento from her years as an economic adviser to the former President.
…And if you think Rogers is an unusual choice to head a group of gay-marriage-promoting atheists, rest assured that the Secular Coalition did, too. She was leading a bipartisan health-care coalition when a headhunting firm brought her in. During one of several interviews for the job, the room was packed with staff and advisers who were, in the words of coalition bigwig Woody Kaplan, “flabbergasted” and “incredulous” at Rogers’s presence.
“My purpose was not to interview Edwina to see if she was right for the job,” recalls Kaplan, an adviser to the coalition, “but to destroy her.”