The Secular Coalition for America’s Executive Director, Edwina Rogers attended several events at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) which ended on Saturday, March 16. I e-mailed her to get her thoughts on the event and asked her about how she was received.
While the Secular Coalition for America (SCA) is the largest non-theist lobbying group in Washington, they did not have a formal table at the conference. Rogers is a long-time Republican and is pretty well known on Capitol Hill. Even though she now represents atheists, humanists, and other non-theists, she reports that she was treated well at CPAC and got to catch up with numerous colleagues and friends. She points out that as a Republican she has often received more hostility from some folks in the non-theistic community than she does from her fellow Republicans because of her lack of belief in gods.
Rogers also acknowledged that she did receive some resistance to the idea of separation of church and state from a few people at CPAC. She says that she found Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum to be “not in line with separation of church and state, as we already know.” The SCA does have a request in to meet with Rubio’s staff, but that request has so far been ignored.
For the most part, Rogers believes that the Republican Party is more open to the non-theistic community than they are generally perceived to be:
“We even had a briefing with the RNC a month ago for their growth and opportunity project on how they can attract non theists and [we] plan the same for the DNC. [It’s] better that we be courted by two strong parties. Also there is the new Republican Reason Caucus a 527 to recruit candidates who are reason based and not faith based. I am on their Advisory Board.”
As unlikely as it might seem for atheists to gain any support in the GOP, the new political reality is that both political parties may soon need to court non-theist votes in order to win elections. Just as there are gay Republicans, there are also atheist Republicans and Rogers intends to reach out to them.
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