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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. Nodack

    "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."

    Thank God for giving me the freedom to be an Athiest. LOL!!!

    September 9, 2013 at 11:43 pm |
  2. Reality

    And what else has taken place "under god"?

    For starters:

    Number of god's creations who died horrible deaths from smallpox

    300,000,000

    September 9, 2013 at 11:37 pm |
  3. Karin

    According to wikipedia, there are 41,000 Christian denominations. Than we have non-christian sects and atheists. Anyway, the entire concept of god being in the pledge is ridiculous. As it doesn't state which god and even if it did some religious sects find it evil to even make mention of their god.

    September 9, 2013 at 11:36 pm |
    • Jeffc6578

      I'm kind of leaning to the God of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, at least tonight.

      September 9, 2013 at 11:49 pm |
  4. Rob

    I'm lost here...a conservative stands up for his own opinion and belief and gets called a bigot, but when liberals do the same they get called social heroes? An ID theorist stands up for what he believes is right and is called a retard, but when an evolutionary theorist does the same you throw accolades on him. Liberals cry about conservative hate speech, then go on sites like this and spew nothing but hatred. While I agree that the religious right is fragmented and hypocritical and that we should be more accepting of the person behind the differing opinion, you may want to glance in the mirror every once in a while to make sure you're not guilty of the same problem.

    September 9, 2013 at 11:35 pm |
    • Galileo

      Science is not democratic.

      September 9, 2013 at 11:37 pm |
      • Rob

        Agreed, but I do think scientific evidence can be colored by worldview, and I saw far too many examples to list here in my biochem coursework and lab research. If I looked at things as though evolution occurred millions of years ago, then of course the evidence points in that direction. If I looked at things as though an intelligent being started everything off, the evidence points in THAT direction. Currently, evolutionary theory is popular and ID theory is heavily criticized with accompanying ad hominems, so of course researchers will write papers while wearing the evolutionary glasses for fear of ostracism.

        September 9, 2013 at 11:47 pm |
      • Rob

        As an example, a couple of major scientists got canned by secular universities for even hinting about intelligent design in their papers and other works like books while I was in school...the research was sound, maybe even good, but all the bosses saw was the red flag.

        September 9, 2013 at 11:55 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      Fair enough about the liberal/conservative thing, even if it was slightly exaggerated. However, ID proponents, while not retards (well, most of them) are completely wrong and should be criticized for their stupidity and ignorance of science.

      September 9, 2013 at 11:44 pm |
    • Jeffc6578

      The difference here is that no liberals beleive conservatives should be banned from living in the US for their beliefs. Even if their beliefs are stupid.

      September 9, 2013 at 11:44 pm |
      • Rob

        Fair enough, that goes back to my point about the right being more open about the person behind the opinion.

        September 9, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Rob, this is about the Constitution. Why do christians think they can violate the foundation of our nation with impunity.? Why do they think that their personal belief is more important than the law of this land? Why do you defend this violation of our Constitution?

      September 10, 2013 at 1:30 am |
    • guest

      Rob,
      Thanks for your comment. It's the best I have seen so far.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:13 am |
  5. brian

    I wonder if Perino goes to Jimmy Swaggart's church. She looks like the type.

    September 9, 2013 at 11:33 pm |
  6. Vik100

    I am offended that they feel offended by God... stupid arguments that lead to nothingness.

    September 9, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
    • Observer

      No atheist has ever been offended by God. Only believers can be offended by God. Talk to your fellow believers.

      September 9, 2013 at 11:33 pm |
      • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

        I'm offended by God, just as I'm offended by Xenu, rogue leader of the Galactic Federation and condemner of mankind.

        September 9, 2013 at 11:40 pm |
    • Karin

      Atheist are not offended by the word God. No more than we are offended by stating Leprechaun... As Americans we look to our pledge, just as you do (maybe), as our pledge to our Nation. The term God is foreign to us, so we are indifferent to the term. Thus, we feel returning to the original pledge would be an improvement and where all Americans can feel a part of.

      September 9, 2013 at 11:42 pm |
  7. Heidi

    Have you ever wondered what athiests really believe in? Wouldn't they have to acknowledge that there is a God in order to say that there is no God? Can we sue the government to have President Obama removed because a lot of Americans don't believe in him anymore? Sounds like the same principle to me!

    September 9, 2013 at 11:30 pm |
    • Twist and shout

      You've got your mental knickers in a twist.

      September 9, 2013 at 11:32 pm |
    • Observer

      "Wouldn't they have to acknowledge that there is a God in order to say that there is no God?"

      You really believe that? Wow.

      September 9, 2013 at 11:32 pm |
    • Drito

      The burden of proof is on you, retard. Automatically assuming God exists is probably the dumbest idea I've ever heard. If the Abrahamic god exists than so do the Pagan and Egyptian gods, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

      September 9, 2013 at 11:39 pm |
      • Jeffc6578

        I believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, because pasta RULES.

        September 9, 2013 at 11:40 pm |
        • J in OK

          New from Chef Boyardee...Flying Spaghetti Monsters. I'd try them if they came in Mini Flying Spaghetti Monsters!

          September 10, 2013 at 12:04 am |
        • G to the T

          Would I be ostracized for being gluton-intolerant?

          September 10, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
      • Heidi

        I am not a retard. I am a sinner saved by Grace! God does exist and for anyone that thinks that he doesn't, well you will definitely find out after you take your last breath. I am not ashamed of God. We are all created in His image! We were put on this Earth to serve Him. Frankly, I don't care what you call me or what you think. You obviously have a very limited vocabulary. And, if you had any scruples at all, you would not use the word retard. I only hope nobody in your family has mental illness. You are just rude!

        September 10, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
      • Heidi

        I am not a retard. I am a sinner saved by Grace! God does exist and for anyone that thinks that he doesn't, well you will definitely find out after you take your last breath. And yes there were pagan idols that were "gods" to people. But how can you pray to or worship a statue? I am not ashamed of God. We are all created in His image! We were put on this Earth to serve Him. Frankly, I don't care what you call me or what you think. You obviously have a very limited vocabulary. And, if you had any scruples at all, you would not use the word retard. I only hope nobody in your family has mental illness. You are just rude!

        September 10, 2013 at 9:38 pm |
    • Jeffc6578

      I think you have to realize there is NO God in order to make believe there is one.

      September 9, 2013 at 11:39 pm |
    • J in OK

      Have you ever wondered if spell check exists? Wouldn't you have to believe in spell check in order for spelling to be correct?

      Seriously, what atheists believe is actually in the definition of "atheist". Look it up, please.

      September 9, 2013 at 11:50 pm |
      • Heidi

        Have you ever wondered if idiots exist?

        September 10, 2013 at 9:45 pm |
    • doobzz

      "Wouldn't they have to acknowledge that there is a God in order to say that there is no God?"

      Oh good grief. Do you have to believe in the Loch Ness Monster in order to say that there is no Loch Ness Monster?

      September 10, 2013 at 12:25 am |
    • tallulah13

      Wow, Heidi. You really have no clue what you are talking about. It's a simple concept: atheists don't believe that any god exists. That's it.

      I guess some christians have such a pathological need to believe in a myth, they can't grasp not believing. Sad, and kind of pathetic.

      September 10, 2013 at 1:36 am |
      • Heidi

        I have never, in all of my life, seen so many postings that "appear" to be anti-American and anti-God! We live in a great nation. If you don't like it here, then go proclaim your ignorance in another country. We live in the greatest nation in the world!

        September 10, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
        • lerianis

          Just because you say we do, doesn't make it true in the slightest. Numerous other countries are actually 'greater' than us and have people who are happier than those in the United States, such as the U.K., France, Sweden, etc.

          September 10, 2013 at 9:53 pm |
    • LeRoy_Was_Here

      A course in Logic 101 might help, Heidi.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:01 am |
  8. Allan

    It really shouldn't bother them the word God is used. If they don't believe in God in the first place.

    September 9, 2013 at 11:29 pm |
    • G to the T

      We don't believe in god or that our nation should be "Under" him, so yeah, it does matter.

      September 10, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
  9. AE

    "One nation, under God–or else"
    – Jello Biafra

    September 9, 2013 at 11:22 pm |
  10. I am not a crook

    The love it or leave it dracula rises again. Hail to Nixon!

    September 9, 2013 at 11:21 pm |
  11. Andrew

    Fox News are such thoughtless people.

    September 9, 2013 at 11:20 pm |
  12. Joe

    Who cares? god, God etc is unimportant in this context.

    September 9, 2013 at 11:18 pm |
  13. bribarian

    multiculturalism always fails

    September 9, 2013 at 11:18 pm |
    • Spock

      Huh? The US is the epitome of a multicultural country. Your prediction is that the US will fail because of that? Get a life.

      September 9, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
  14. Jesus

    People here have very short memories. The placement of "under God" in the pledge is a vestige of Joe McCarthy's rage against "Godless communism" (Joe's lingo). Prior to the 1950s, it wasn't in the pledge and frankly, shouldn't be there (unless you really really like crazy Joe McCarthy).

    September 9, 2013 at 11:18 pm |
    • Maria

      Exactly. Same as I stated below, too.

      The "under God" was not inserted out of a love for God, it was put there out of anger, hatred, paranoia and a self-righteousness to which no man has a right to claim over their fellow man.

      September 9, 2013 at 11:20 pm |
    • Martha Ireland

      Thank you for this. Very good job.

      September 9, 2013 at 11:30 pm |
      • Courtney

        Thank you!!!

        September 9, 2013 at 11:46 pm |
  15. Jeffc6578

    One word to describe Ms. Perino, and it starts with "C". I'm a combat veteran and an athiest. I fought for the freedom of religion, and the freedom FROM religion. Screw her.

    September 9, 2013 at 11:15 pm |
    • Dippy

      Jeffry, it's atheist, OT athiest.

      September 9, 2013 at 11:21 pm |
      • Jeffc6578

        Dippy – kiss my hairy butt.

        September 9, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
      • Jeffc6578

        And seriously – is "Dippy" short for dip sh**? If it's not, it really should be.

        September 9, 2013 at 11:28 pm |
        • Dippy

          It's dipshit, not dip sh**. Come on, Jeffy, you can do better if you try harder.

          September 10, 2013 at 1:45 am |
      • Spelling bee

        Get a thrill out of correcting the spelling? I before e except after c. You're a genius. You are helping the world be a better place.

        September 9, 2013 at 11:35 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Thank you, Jeff. For the service and for the comment.

      September 10, 2013 at 1:37 am |
  16. Casey

    "The Humanist group". That's hilarious. Wasn't the name of the fake charity that George Castanza made up?

    September 9, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
    • Joe

      It's Costanza. Sheesh.

      September 9, 2013 at 11:17 pm |
      • ama01

        Yeah, I can't believe he didn't know the correct spelling of a fictional character's name. What world is he living in?

        September 9, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
    • doobzz

      It was The Human Fund.

      You could have Googled "humanist" and not made a fool of yourself.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:29 am |
  17. Dina

    Right wingers like Perino always assume this is THEIR country. They want to "take their country back", and those who don't agree with them should "Go somewhere else". This kind of arrogance is so completely absurd, unAmerican, and foolish, that I can't believe she ever held any job anywhere in Government. I'd never hire someone so backward.

    September 9, 2013 at 11:13 pm |
    • Maria

      She is one of those for whom there always has to be an enemy. There always has to be an opposition to attack in some way, or she's not happy. Heaven forbid someone simply states a belief without a vicious retort coming their way, never mind fights for that belief.

      September 9, 2013 at 11:17 pm |
  18. Maria

    Okay, a little history lesson: the words "under God" were an ADD-ON by a Republican Congress in 1954. Those words weren't there until we, as Americans, gave our politicians permission to include "under God"... and since when do politicians rather than religious leaders get that right?

    The original Pledge of Allegiance was written by a Socialist and adopted in 1949; the "under God" came in during the paranoia and prejudice of the McCarthy era. In other words, you had to profess your love for God while saying the Pledge (which was created as a flag ceremony, not a freakin' HOLY ROLLER speech!). If you didn't, then you were a Commie and you could lose your job, your house and be ostracized in your own neigborhood.

    September 9, 2013 at 11:12 pm |
  19. David Allred

    About the only thing in this world as insecure its world view as a Christian fundamentalist is the modern day atheist. That they'd waste human resources chasing after this kind of idiocy is telling. Some people care more about being correct than being good.

    September 9, 2013 at 11:12 pm |
  20. Don

    Why do we have a Pledge of Allegiance anyway? It's needless and mindless! I did 21.5 years in the military. My children don't have to pledge allegiance to anything or anyone (except each other). The only thing I hate worse then the Pledge of Allegiance is when people say the USA "is a Christian Nation" or it was "Founded on Christian Principles. Tell that to the Navajo, Cherokee, and Sioux.

    September 9, 2013 at 11:10 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.