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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
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(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 Religion Editor

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

soundoff (7,255 Responses)
  1. Doc

    Here's the thing though... where does it end? What about people who don't like/don't agree with another phrase in the pledge, on our currency, in the oaths of office? If any part of the pledge is open to be stricken because a group doesn't like it, so is the rest of the pledge. Or national anthem. Or... The possible arguments are virtually endless.

    September 9, 2013 at 10:06 pm |
    • OOO

      Yes, But don't you agree that in the 21st century pledging to an imaginary sky fairy is a little much?

      September 9, 2013 at 10:11 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      Well, the oath of office is an individual thing and the individual can choose or not choose to mention a deity. As for the currency, In God We Trust should also go.

      Also, we don't want to remove it just because we don't like it, we want to remove it because it violates church/state separation, a necessity for a supposedly secular country.

      September 9, 2013 at 10:14 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Don't forget we're talking about amendments made in the 50's to somehow stave off communism.

      September 9, 2013 at 10:17 pm |
    • Frank Mondana

      No, the possibilities are not endless. Our system allows for everyone to worship, or not, whatever or whoever they want. There are many Americans that feel that the definition of freedom of religion means only the faith as defined by the bible.

      It's not just us evil atheists who dislike being told that we are all "under God". There are lots of faiths who worship deities (or forces, spirits, etc) other than "Big G". They should not have to pledge to something they don't believe in.

      September 9, 2013 at 10:44 pm |
    • Grace

      Think about what the pledge means for a minute, okay? It's the pledge of allegiance. By adding in the mention of God, it changes the focus of this oath from loyalty to the nation and, instead, to a statement that -has- to be false for nonbelievers. As a result, a lot of the people affected decline to pledge something they can't believe in. That small change makes this no longer just an oath of fidelity to the nation, but instead about making the statement "I believe in God." And the truth is, a growing number of Americans don't.

      Let me remind you that it was a device created to alienate and intimidate anyone who wasn't a God-fearing Christian. This is Red Scare stuff; stuff created to ferret out those commie sympathizers who didn't believe the same way as everyone else. It's an artifact of a time where "UnChristian" was synonymous with "UnAmerican".

      The US is a secular nation. The pledge of allegiance -should- reflect that.

      September 9, 2013 at 10:44 pm |
  2. Vik100

    "Suppose a nation in some distant Region should take the Bible for their only law Book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love, and reverence toward Almighty God ... What a Eutopia, what a Paradise would this region be."

    ~John Adams
    2nd U.S. President and Signer of the Declaration of Independence

    September 9, 2013 at 10:06 pm |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM

      I don't believe Christians during the crusades thought the same thing when Christian soldiers pillaged loyal villages for food for a useless war.

      September 9, 2013 at 10:08 pm |
    • Mark in Atlanta

      Same would be true if everyone took seriously the writings of Marx.

      September 9, 2013 at 10:09 pm |
    • tallulah13

      As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation. But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed?
      - John Adams, letter to FA Van der Kamp, December 27, 1816

      September 9, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
    • tallulah13

      When philosophic reason is clear and certain by intuition or necessary induction, no subsequent revelation supported by prophecies or miracles can supersede it.
      - John Adams, from Rufus K Noyes, Views of Religion, quoted from from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

      September 9, 2013 at 10:11 pm |
    • Alan

      Who's interpretation shall we use for this? Catholics? Mormons? Baptists? I don't see a utopia, I see an endless argument over trivial details.

      September 9, 2013 at 10:11 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved - the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!
      - John Adams, letter to Thomas Jefferson, from George Seldes, The Great Quotations, also from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

      September 9, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
    • tallulah13

      God is an essence that we know nothing of. Until this awful blasphemy is got rid of, there never will be any liberal science in the world.
      - John Adams, "this awful blashpemy" that he refers to is the myth of the Incarnation of Christ, from Ira D Cardiff, What Great Men Think of Religion, quoted from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

      September 9, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
  3. Imma Annoid

    It's very sad that he is that old and still thinks there is a god. LOL. I suppose he believes in the tooth fairy and santa clause too!

    Next thing you know, he'll want to teach the christian creation myth as fact by disguising it as "intelligent design", the ultimate oxymoron. The christian taliban need to leave this country and move in with their kindred spirits in Iran and Pakistan.

    September 9, 2013 at 10:06 pm |
  4. G. Zeus Kreiszchte

    “As the government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”

    Treaty with Tripoli, drafted in 1796 under George Washington and signed by John Adams in 1797

    September 9, 2013 at 10:06 pm |
    • Vic

      Yeah but most states were founded on Christian principles, and this very issue is a state and not Federal one!

      September 9, 2013 at 10:21 pm |
      • G to the T

        It's a national pledge of allegence. Even if this particular case is state-level, it is indeed a federal issue.

        September 10, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
  5. Doris

    "I do not believe in the divinity of Christ, and there are many other of the postulates of the orthodox creed to which I cannot subscribe."

    – William Howard Taft, the only U.S. President to also hold the office of Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court

    September 9, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
  6. Vik100

    "While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian."

    ~George Washington

    September 9, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM

      Provide the reference to this quote?

      September 9, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
    • Mark in Atlanta

      Huh, I like George, but he sounds a lot like a Nazi in this one. As Upton Sinclair wrote in the 30's, when Fascism crosses the Atlantic, it will come carrying a cross in one hand and a flag in the other.

      September 9, 2013 at 10:07 pm |
    • Robert

      “This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it”
      John Adams

      September 9, 2013 at 10:07 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.”

      ~George Washington, letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia, May 1789

      September 9, 2013 at 10:07 pm |
    • rika

      Profound...LOL

      September 9, 2013 at 10:08 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by a difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society.”

      ~George Washington, letter to Edward Newenham, October 20, 1792

      September 9, 2013 at 10:09 pm |
  7. Bill

    Perhaps the Christian Taliban should go elsewhere. Much of Canada is totally uninhabited, perhaps they could force their theocratic views down one another's throats there. As for America....keep your church separated from my state.

    September 9, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
    • Vik100

      stop being a drama queen.. Are christians twisting your arm forcing you to convert??

      September 9, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
      • M

        No, they would just be happier if we left. Says a lot about them. Just like racists want black folks to go back to Africa.

        September 9, 2013 at 10:06 pm |
      • Mark in Atlanta

        Yes. Ms. Perino thinks that people who don't should move. Her words.

        September 9, 2013 at 10:08 pm |
    • Mark

      LOl Bill...please no please....we do not want them up here either. Besides isn't their some atoll they can buy – like the ones the Navy uses for practice 😉

      September 9, 2013 at 10:06 pm |
      • Dippy

        There, not their.

        September 9, 2013 at 10:46 pm |
        • RC

          This is too much fun-SHUT UP!!

          September 11, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
    • Atheistman

      Don't dump your wingnuts and screwballs here!!!!
      The amount of money, time and energy your country has wasted on this is unbelievable!! It's totally mind-blowing how divided the USA has become over simple little matters. When you're not fighting others, you fight among yourselves. If anything, those with common sense, ingenuity and a belief in stronger humanism should come North!!

      September 9, 2013 at 10:14 pm |
  8. Alan

    Why is the Pledge necessary anyway? I mean, really. Does it change my commitment to the growth and well being of my nation? Of course not. My actions speak loud than my words, with or without God.

    September 9, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      Exactly.

      September 9, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
  9. Paul Gibbons

    I find it incredible that in the 21st Century my kids are coerced into saying 'under God'. Formally coerced in that they are asked to say it, and informally coerced because what 9 year old wants to walk out of the classroom and face taunts from his peers.

    The US is the most theocratic states outside the middle east. It is closer to Iran than to German in the power that religion has in the lives of people.

    You are welcome to your Christianity – just keep it away from my kids.

    September 9, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      perfect!

      September 9, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

      Da socies have come full circle on da pleadge. Dogs chase their tails.

      September 9, 2013 at 10:33 pm |
  10. rika

    AHHH yes, the religious sheep are so lost and pathetic as usual...sad to say the joke is on them just wait until you religious fanatics die and find out your whole life was based on complete BS!!! It is so much easier to cling to false hope in a pretend deity than to be responsible for yourself on this earth isn't it? Bigots, racists, hypocritical buffoons!!!!!!!!

    September 9, 2013 at 10:00 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      But they won't find out will they, seeing as discovery is limited to the living.

      September 9, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
  11. Alan

    Somebody hasn't been in the News enough lately? Miss the spotlight Dana? Aww.

    September 9, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      LOLOL

      September 9, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
  12. Dyslexic doG

    "I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature."

    – Thomas Jefferson

    September 9, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
  13. Dyslexic doG

    "Religions are all alike – founded upon fables and mythologies."

    – Thomas Jefferson

    September 9, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
  14. Dyslexic doG

    "Christianity is the most perverted system that ever shone on man."

    – Thomas Jefferson

    September 9, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
  15. Vik100

    Keep it! We are a nation under God! They can live without God if they so choose..

    September 9, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM

      We are not a nation of God, we are a nation of the PEOPLE.

      September 9, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
      • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

        Nuthin' SPECIAL 'bout bein' a nation under God. They all get judged.

        September 9, 2013 at 10:29 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      No, we are a nation under Tony the Tiger.

      September 9, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
    • OOO

      We are a nation under god? What does that even mean?

      September 9, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
      • Alan

        It means do what I say it means or get out. A logical solution.

        September 9, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Or we can return it to the original format - the one that was written to include all Americans - and get rid of the add-on line that was shoved in by cowardly pukes who feared the commies and thought that hollow words would protect them.

      You can worship all day, if you want, and I can be an atheist. These things are equally protected by the Constitution. You want to live in a theocracy? Try Iran.

      September 9, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
    • Mark in Atlanta

      The Episcopal minister who wrote the pledge did not include the words "under God." He understood what separation of church and state means. The words "under God" were added in my lifetime by people who for the most part were a bunch of bigots terrified by the notion of civil rights. Let's keep the pledge as it was written and meant to be.

      September 9, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
      • Vic

        Actually, it was added during the Cold War for the fear of the spread of Communism.

        September 9, 2013 at 10:17 pm |
      • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

        wiki sayz, ".............................Francis Julius Bellamy (May 18, 1855 – August 28, 1931) was an American socialist,[1][2] minister, and author, best known for authoring the American Pledge of Allegiance.........................."
        Get rid of the garbage and make the SERVANTS take da pledge, silly socies. This dude sold da flags and was a Baptist pharisee. A baptist pharisee also gave em the "altar call", if ya can find the altar in some mythical sanctuary.

        September 9, 2013 at 10:27 pm |
        • RC

          Went off the meds again, didn't ya?

          September 11, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
  16. F-Off

    Who made her the owner of America such that she can tell you to leave if you don't like it?
    F-.ng arrogant A- hole.

    September 9, 2013 at 9:54 pm |
    • M

      And that's what the racists tell black folks – leave...go back to Africa. Same mindset, and apparently not very sophisticated.

      September 9, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
      • M

        Wait...did I just tie racism, religious extremism, and Fox News together in one stroke? How simple.

        September 9, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
  17. jdoe

    Islamists want their countries to be Muslim only. Similarly, extremists in America want this country to have only one religion. They would never admit it, but they have a lot in common.

    September 9, 2013 at 9:53 pm |
    • Vik100

      LOL – look around you and see what living without God has done to this country.. By all measures society keeps getting worse and worse.

      September 9, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
      • Dyslexic doG

        are you 100 years old? That was a cranky old man statement if ever I heard one.

        September 9, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
      • What is going on? FREEDOM

        Seriously? The KKK believed in God. Do you think they did the right thing for the country back in the 50s and 60s?

        September 9, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
      • tallulah13

        The majority of Americans are christian, Vik. You have only yourself to blame if you don't like how people behave.

        September 9, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
      • Mark in Atlanta

        Holy cow! Look, a comment from one of the Muslim extremists you were just talking about! How ironic.

        September 9, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
      • Paul Gibbons

        Vik – 'living without god is BS' – you are the most religious BY FAR of all the industrial societies. Church going in England is 7%. Relatively speaking – this country has more religion than elsewhere. But we do agree, this society is very sick. I think sick because of gun-nuts, closet racists, f*&(-the-poor conservatives, and elections bought by corporations.

        September 9, 2013 at 10:32 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      the Christian Taliban is alive and well ...

      September 9, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
  18. Kent

    Like we needed yet another reason not to watch Fox News. Yawn...

    September 9, 2013 at 9:53 pm |
    • Alan

      Are you kidding? Some of the anchors are hot as hell. Their makeup people are FANTASTIC. Might wanna turn the sound off though.

      September 9, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
  19. Dagbydiggers

    I agree...with the Fox news Host.They should spend their time helping fellow citizens instead of worrying about removing the phrase "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance. If you don't like what it says then don't say it or move to North Korea. What a incredible waste of time to pursue this.........your all pathetic.

    September 9, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
    • Kent

      It seems in North Korea the almighty leader decides what the people should and should not believe... You'd fit in there. The rest of us would like to exercise our freedom to believe or not to believe... Do you have a problem with freedom?

      September 9, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM

      Atheist groups have helped for years to certain groups like the Cancer Society.

      September 9, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
    • OOO

      What about the people who put it in the pledge in the first place? What should they be worring about?

      September 9, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
    • Alan

      You're right, don't say it if you don't like. But North Korea and pathetic? You make yourself look childish.

      September 9, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      Why don't you move to Iran, seeing as you clearly want to live in a theocracy?

      September 9, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
    • Brian

      If you don't like people trying to exercise their freedom then you're the one who should move.

      September 9, 2013 at 10:28 pm |
  20. Vic

    That's why I posted earlier that we are humans not robots. It's "human nature" to say something like that when frustrated, especially when being bombarded with the "unconstitutional legal loophole over the very thing we believe in, and I am pretty sure it's not about bigotry.

    September 9, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I believe that the Constitution is the law of this land, and that the Constitution grants all religion (and lack of religion) the exact same rights. Adding "under God" to a pledge that school children were/are compelled to participate is in direct conflict with the intention of our rights as United States citizens.

      September 9, 2013 at 10:07 pm |
      • Vic

        But if the majority still want it, what do you do? What if the Constitution ends up being amended over it?

        September 9, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
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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.