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Posted at 05:00 AM ET, 05/08/2012

Republican lobbyist Edwina Rogers new head of Secular Coalition for America

Edwina Rogers, new executive director of the Secular Coalition for America. (Secular Coalition for America. )

Here’s an interesting career twist: Edwina Rogers as the new voice for separation of church and state.

The flamboyant Republican lobbyist — who raised eyebrows with her small role on “The Real Housewives of D.C.” — started a new gig last week as executive director of the Secular Coalition for America, a small lobbying shop in D.C. devoted to keeping religion out of government.

Rogers, along with soon-to-be-ex-husband Ed Rogers , is well-known as a longtime GOP insider, fundraiser, conservative commentator and socialite — not the resume of a traditional secularist.

The tiny SCFA needed a new leader after Sean Faircloth, an outspoken critic of the religious right, left to join the the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. It wanted an attorney with experience in the White House and Capitol Hill; Rogers worked for President George W. Bush, Sen. Trent Lott and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. And she came with an unexpected bonus: She’s a conservative Republican.

“They weren’t initially looking for that,” she told us. “But after the board contacted me, that’s where they decided they needed to be.”

Edwina Rogers on the National Mall with some TV cameras in 2009. (Courtesy of Matt Dornic)
The classic Southern belle grew up in rural Alabama where everyone identified themselves as Christians. Rogers, 47, told us she studied religion in college — “It’s something I’ve always been interested in” — but is now tasked with keeping it out of politics. “Law should be based on found science and reason, not on any particular religious belief or faith,” she said.

Top of the agenda: Keeping religion out of health care (her last job was leading a group of medical providers), school textbooks and policies that discriminate based on religious beliefs — or lack thereof.

Rogers said she’s gotten some grief — not from her conservative friends, but from liberals who think she’s hijacking their issue.

“It’s a hot, interesting topic,” she said. “I see a lot of opportunity to recruit secular Republicans to the movement.”

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By  |  05:00 AM ET, 05/08/2012

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