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September 9th, 2013
03:29 PM ET

Fox News host: Atheists 'don't have to live here'

By Daniel BurkeCNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - Fox News pundit Dana Perino said she's "tired" of atheists attempting to remove the phrase "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance, adding, "if these people really don't like it, they don't have to live here."

The co-host of Fox's "The Five" was referring to a suit brought by the American Humanist Association in Massachusetts, where the state's Supreme Judicial Court heard a challenge to the pledge on Wednesday.

The group's executive director, Roy Speckhardt, called the suit "the first challenge of its kind," but Perino begged to differ.

Perino, who was White House press secretary for George W. Bush from 2007-2009, said she recalled working at the Justice Department in 2001 "and a lawsuit like this came through."

The former Bush spokeswoman added that "before the day had finished the United States Senate and the House of Representatives had both passed resolutions saying that they were for keeping ‘under God’ in the pledge."

"If these people don't like it, they don't have to live here," Perino added.

David Silverman, president of the American Atheists, called Perino's comments "bigotry."

"I, for one, am tired of those Christians, like Ms. Perino, who think that equality is somehow un-American," Silverman said. "If Ms. Perino doesn't like being only equal, it is she who will have to leave America to some other country that doesn't value religious liberty."

READ MORE: Famous Atheists and Their Beliefs 

In 2002, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with atheist Michael Newdow who argued that the words "under God" in the pledge amounted to an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion. The Supreme Court overturned that ruling.

Congress added the words "under God" in 1954 amid the red scare over the Soviet Union. In November 2002, after the Newdow ruling, Congress passed a law reaffirming "under God" in the pledge.

Greg Gutfeld, another co-host on "The Five," continued the discussion after Perino, saying the Pledge of Allegiance "is not a prayer, it's a patriotic exercise. In a sense, it's basically saying: Thanks for giving us the freedom to be an atheist."

The Massachusetts case, which was brought by an unidentified family of a student at a school in suburban Boston, will be argued on the premise that the pledge violates the Equal Rights Amendment of the Massachusetts Constitution.

READ MORE: Behold, the Six Types of Atheists

It is the first such case to be tried on the state level: All previous attempts have been argued in federal court on the grounds that "under God" was an unconstitutional violation of the separation of church and state.

CNN's Kevin Conlon contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog Editor

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Church and state • Courts • Culture wars • News media • Schools • TV

soundoff (7,255 Responses)
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  4. Bernardo

    I think the last lady speaking is really stupid! Atheists are citizens of the U.S.A thereby making their requests valid. It's not tradition....separation of church and state 101 lady! People have the freedom to say that there is or there isn't a god but when validated by the state that concept no longer makes sense. "But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg." Thomas Jefferson

    November 28, 2013 at 12:51 am |
    • Ellen S Wilds

      It is equally true that fundamentalist Christians do not have to live here either. Since they are the ones loudly protesting their disdain - even hatred - for others' beliefs, it is they who should consider finding another country in which to reside. I for one would be delighted to have all those noisy believers living somewhere else, leaving me and mine to believe as we wish in peace and QUIET.

      November 28, 2013 at 7:35 am |
  5. Will

    I agree that it should not be in the pledge nor should it be on our currency. Our government should be a neutral government not favoring one religion over another, if this is the case than change it to "in Allah we trust" imagine how angry people would get over that. take a minute to think about that, let it sink in. I do not watch fox news because of things like this. Once a news station stops being neutral then it stops being an accurate news outlet. I think the government should be pushed to change our currency and the pledge and if any religion wants to step up and want to push to change it back than they should have to pay the admission price, you know tax the church. If we did that our national debt would be paid off. So maybe we should push to make that change and we might as well boycott fox news.

    October 22, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
  6. Dex B

    I am Catholic, and I am astounded by the blatant bigotry of Fox News. How they stay on the air and use the cover of freedom of speech to take away other peoples' freedom (such as one of religion) is beyond me.

    October 8, 2013 at 12:55 am |
  7. Pontius Pilatus

    What that "lady" said on Fox is complete and utter horsehockey that driblled from her yellow press mouth but I dont believe as an Atheist that the phrase "Under God" violates my religion. When I was a child in elementary school I just wouldnt say it.

    October 7, 2013 at 10:14 pm |
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    • Tom

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      October 8, 2013 at 5:10 am |
  9. grinch

    As an atheist, the people who would sue over this are giving us all a bad name. They need to tolerate the traditions of this country, even if they are of a religious nature. If they don't want to speak the pledge of allegiance, they should have the freedom not to. However they should not have the right to strip people of their freedom of religion. Activists of any sort tend to be just as bad as those they protest. They are just extremists in the opposite side of the spectrum.

    October 6, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
    • sirhuxley

      Nope, I disagree completely. I doubt you are really an Atheist too.

      Heres why I disagree, the whole "Under God" thing lends credibility to religion that it does not deserve, it lends the acknowledgement of government.

      These words weren't added "because of the Red Scare" they were added because Christians are very well funded busybodies.

      Also, I don't think that we can call something that came about in 1954 a "Tradition"

      October 7, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • Robin

      Having "Under God" in the pledge is NOT about Religious Freedom to begin with. The original pledge did not have it in there (and the pledge was written by a BAPTIST PREACHER). "Under God" was placed into the pledge during the 50's and the whole "Red Scare" (Look up McCarthyism during the 1950's). When people were constantly pointing at others and yelling "You Communist!"

      I honestly don't care if it's in there or not... but to say that removing it somehow steps on anothers religious freedom is extremely ignorant of what Religious Freedom actually is.

      October 22, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
      • Will

        I agree that it should not be in the pledge nor should it be on our currency. Our government should be a neutral government not favoring one religion over another, if this is the case than change it to "in Allah we trust" imagine how angry people would get over that. take a minute to think about that, let it sink in. I do not watch fox news because of things like this. Once a news station stops being neutral then it stops being an accurate news outlet. I think the government should be pushed to change our currency and the pledge and if any religion wants to step up and want to push to change it back than they should have to pay the admission price, you know tax the church. If we did that our national debt would be paid off. So maybe we should push to make that change and we might as well boycott fox news.

        October 22, 2013 at 7:28 pm |
    • Leanne

      No one is attacking people's freedom of religion. No one is saying that individuals won't be allowed to pray, or say the "under God" version of the pledge. Freedom from Religion activists are simply arguing that the *government* shouldn't be able to *force* people to do it (and a public school teacher telling a student to do something is force – it's excercising the authority of the government over the individual in a way that implicitly sanctions religion over non-religion, which violates the establishment clause of the first amendment). Same with things like nativity scenes on courthouse lawns, or placards with the ten commandments – atheists argue for equality – that firstly, the government should not provide funding for religious symbols, and also that if the symbols of one religion are allowed there should be a procedure in place to allow the symbols of other organizations to *also* be displayed, regardless of religious affiliation. However, no atheist lawsuit that I'm aware of has *ever* argued against being able to display privately funded religious symbols on private property – you still have a right to a nativity scene. We just don't want it to be funded by the government and permanently affixed to the courthouse steps.

      October 24, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
  10. Flooby

    LOL. That's a funny statement! Yet ANOTHER gem by Faux Noise!

    October 5, 2013 at 10:17 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.