Edwina Rogers Sues Atheist Lobbying Group, Alleging Defamation and Wrongful Termination May 28, 2015

Edwina Rogers Sues Atheist Lobbying Group, Alleging Defamation and Wrongful Termination

***Update***: The Secular Coalition for America’s interim Executive Director Kelly Damerow gave me this statement:

The SCA is disappointed that Ms. Rogers chose to file this complaint. The SCA denies Ms. Rogers’ allegations that it has taken any unlawful actions against her. SCA has retained legal counsel and intends to vigorously contest this lawsuit.

***Update 2***: Roy Speckhardt’s attorney issued this statement on his behalf:

All I can say at this point is that my client categorically rejects the meritless, incoherent, and stale allegations brought against him. The Complaint is riddled with contradictory, misleading, and demonstrably false claims.

I would also add that that the lawsuit below is entirely one person’s version of what happened. The SCA’s version of the events has not yet been made public. The courts will decide what the evidence shows. Keep that in mind.

***Update 3***: Greg Langer sent me this statement:

“I have never defamed Edwina Rogers to anyone, anywhere, at any time. I never told anyone that Ms. Rogers “pimped” for Richard Dawkins or anyone else. She used that word. I did not. By doing so, she grossly mischaracterized my words and meaning. My email to [redacted] was not written to defame Ms. Rogers but to express my disappointment with her comment to me that implied she used attractive young women to curry favor with Richard Dawkins. I know Richard well enough to know he would never participate in or condone such actions.”

***Update 4*** (7/29): The SCA has filed an official motion to dismiss the case.

According to a lawsuit obtained by this site, Edwina Rogers (below) is suing the Secular Coalition for America (her former employer).

Last year, Rogers was fired as the lobbying group’s Executive Director for reasons that were never fully explained to the public. The New York TimesLaurie Goodstein and Mark Oppenheimer first broke that story.

The lawsuit alleges that SCA leaders wrongfully terminated Rogers and then made defamatory statements about her to the press. They were motivated, the document says, by “petty jealousies and naked ambition.”

Rogers claims that SCA President Amanda Metskas — who “envied Plaintiff” — wanted the higher salary that came with Rogers’ position. It also alleges that the SCA Education Fund’s Treasurer, Roy Speckhardt of the American Humanist Association, had ulterior motives:

[By replacing Rogers with Metskas,] Speckhardt would be able to diminish the lobbying portfolio of SCA and thereby increase and enhance his own organization’s lobbying visibility within the secular community. Additionally, Speckhardt would not be held accountable for his lack of financial oversight that permitted the embezzlement to incur and continue.

As for the NYT article, Rogers says that Metskas and/or Speckhardt found a way to leak information to the reporters in order to get ahead of the story:

In order to assure that Plaintiff would not be given reasonable notice or any opportunity to defend herself, upon information and belief, Metskas and/or Speckhardt leaked, or caused to be leaked, Plaintiff’s termination to the New York Times, even prior to the notification to Ms. Rogers of her termination.

Upon information and belief, Metskas and/or Speckhardt intended that the New York Times report Plaintiff had embezzled funds or was otherwise responsible for the embezzlement owing to the false assumption that the Executive Director would be ultimately responsible for any financial oversight. Ms. Rogers did not have financial responsibility in her capacity as Executive Director at that time.

After Rogers was fired, Metskas took over as acting Executive Director and applied for the position on a more permanent basis (though my understanding is that she eventually withdrew her name from consideration). (***Edit***: Metskas tells me she did not, in fact, apply for the position, contradicting what Rogers alleges in the lawsuit.)

As for the embezzlement, Rogers says an outside accounting firm confirmed that she had nothing to do with it, but that report was not distributed to the SCA board, creating a “cloud of suspicion over her when it abruptly terminated her two weeks later.”

The suit also alleges that Greg Langer, who chaired an SCA member organization, said to SCA board members and donors and others that Rogers once told him she “pimped” for Richard Dawkins (SCA Advisory Board member) and another person by “[making] sure there were pretty young women seated next to them and available.”

Dawkins completely dismissed the notion in a response directed at Langer (“Total and utter lie, Greg. Total, hurtful, damaging, pure, damned lie”) and Rogers denies ever saying such a thing to begin with.

Rogers also says her wages were garnished once (and only once) but the SCA board used that information as a reason to terminate her employment.

It all boils down to this: Rogers says that SCA is guilty of “breach of contract” and that the Defendants are guilty of slander and/or defamation and “intentionally coerced and caused SCA to terminate its contract” with her. There are also charges of civil conspiracy by the Defendants and wrongful termination and negligence by the SCA.

Rogers is asking for $750,000 in compensatory damages, additional punitive and exemplary damages, and appropriate legal fees.

I’ve reached out to the defendants and the SCA for comment and will update this post if/when I hear back.

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