Longtime Republican aide takes helm of atheist lobbying group

Steven Nelson Associate Editor
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A former aide to conservative politicians from the deep south has landed a new gig leading a self-described atheist lobbying organization.

The surprising announcement was made in a Thursday press release by the Secular Coalition for America, which proudly shared that Edwina Rogers would be the group’s new executive director.

Rogers said in the release, “For too long, the 50 million secular Americans have been ignored, underappreciated and undervalued — that’s what drew me to the Secular Coalition for America.”

“It’s time to change that. Secular Americans are increasingly pulling together as a voting bloc that demands attention — a constituency that is due formidable representation in Washington, D.C.,” she added.

The news is bound to surprise at least a few outside observers. Rogers previously worked for Mississippi Republican Sen. Trent Lott during his time as Senate Majority Leader and, from 2003 to 2004, worked on health care policy for Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions.

Rogers also served as general counsel of the National Republican Senatorial Committee in 1994, and as an economic adviser to Republican President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2002.

Her role at the Secular Coalition for America will include implementation of a 50-state strategy. “We have an aggressive plan to expand participation in the movement,” she said in a Q&A posted to the group’s website. “By the end of the year, we will have coalitions up and running in all 50 states.”

“The Religious Right is a vocal part of the Republican Party, but it’s also a minority. Most Republicans don’t necessarily agree with them,” she added in the Q&A.

Ahead of the 2012 Republican primaries, the group published a scorecard of major candidates’ positions on various issues. President Barack Obama out-performed the GOP candidates on nearly every subject. Curiously, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum bested Texas Rep. Ron Paul in the category “attitude toward nontheists.”

The organization also sponsored the “Reason Rally” in March on the National Mall, which attracted hundreds of atheists and counter-protesters.

Edwina Rogers was married for twenty years to Republican insider Ed Rogers — who co-founded the lobbying firm BGR Group with former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. The couple filed for divorce in 2010. Ms. Rogers made a guest appearance in 2010 on “The Real Housewives of D.C.”

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