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. richunix


    Atheism is not a religion nor has it ever been. Only religious minded sect want to place Atheism among the other religious sects in order to bash it as heretical, thus a false religion.

    Definition of Atheism
    1. disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.
    synonyms: nonbelief, disbelief, unbelief, irreligion, skepticism, doubt,

    Stephen F Roberts: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

    September 10, 2013 at 7:26 am |
    • Bob

      I think it depend on the origins of a persons atheism. For most of history man has viewed the world based on his beliefs. Around 1500 years ago some people began to propose viewing the world objectively, and testing observations, in order to determine there validity. This has lead to science, technology, and progress, and to the view, for many, that god is myth based on mans fear of the unknown. This is clearly not a religion. The irony is, this doesn't exclude an appreciation for the role of region in mans development, or the desire to be religious, but it does exclude a belief in God.

      September 10, 2013 at 7:40 am |
  2. scranton

    Huffington Post had this story a week ago.

    September 10, 2013 at 7:26 am |
  3. atheistshouldgetalife

    I don't like rumpeltiltskin, for me his a bad influence to my 5-yr. old son but I will never say his (rumpeltiltskin) name to make him disappear. I don't believe he is real.

    September 10, 2013 at 7:21 am |
    • atheistshouldgetalife


      September 10, 2013 at 7:27 am |
  4. fr114

    Fox dolt rants her hate. not news. just same old same old

    September 10, 2013 at 7:16 am |
    • DesMoiner

      She's merely an indoctrinated parrot, nothing more.

      September 10, 2013 at 7:27 am |
  5. TexasSteve

    Thank god I'm an atheist

    September 10, 2013 at 7:16 am |
  6. LeeCMH

    Hateful Christians are seething hateful and venomos. Pledges and prayer in schools are symbolic ways to rabble rouse the mean spirited while screaming persecution.

    September 10, 2013 at 7:11 am |
  7. GO_GOP

    Atheists can go to hell. Am sick of them. I will love it when the burn in hell. They are almost always criminals and have low morals. Most inmates in US jails are atheists.

    September 10, 2013 at 7:09 am |
    • LeeCMH

      Prisoners are all Christians, either before committing their crimes or after incarceration. It is especially true about "after" incarceration because prison rewards are given for overt "Christian" expression.

      September 10, 2013 at 7:14 am |
    • Observer


      Well done. You have proven how much of world class hypocrites Christians can be. Would Jesus have made such an ignorant rant? Of course not.

      September 10, 2013 at 7:15 am |
      • John

        When Jesus comes back, I think the ones that will have the most to fear are those that call themselves Christian.

        September 10, 2013 at 7:48 am |
    • Mirosal

      According to the Pew research surveys, over 90% of those incarcerated affiliate with "Christian", while less that 2% identify with Atheist .. tell us again, who the criminals really are?

      September 10, 2013 at 7:17 am |
    • MJC

      GO_GOP your an idiot and theres a reason the founding fathers called for a separation of church and state. I am not an athiest but I do understand the reasoning for the separation. You really need to look up your facts before you post that driveling nonsense and maybe even read LeeCMH followup comment.

      September 10, 2013 at 7:23 am |
    • Jen

      Hey guess what, I'm an atheist with no criminal record and excellent moral values. I was raised in the Christian church by a very religious family. I've been an atheist for almost my entire adult life. Knowing right from wrong does not require a belief in God. I have raised four children as an atheist and am constantly complimented when out in public with my children on how well behaved and respectful my children are. Being atheist doesn't make someone a bad person.

      September 10, 2013 at 7:25 am |
    • fxalbert

      Hey Go GOP, Yeah, go somewhere else where they don't have seperation of church and state like Iran. You'll love it there.

      September 10, 2013 at 7:28 am |
    • chrome48

      Do you realize if you were born in Iran you would not believe in the bible. Does this not make you wonder about your faith when it is totally based on where you are born and/or which holy place your parents took you too to be brain washed when you were a kid.

      September 10, 2013 at 7:30 am |
  8. Kinimod

    Look, atheism is a form of religion. It is a set of beliefs about this life, that is what religion is... Neither Christians nor atheist can prove their claims. So, why would atheism promote equality, when it facts goes against 90% of Americans. It only promotes a belief system of minority.

    September 10, 2013 at 7:07 am |
    • bill

      atheism is a form of religion ??? what are you talking about ? No it's not.

      September 10, 2013 at 7:13 am |
    • Mirosal

      Atheism is the lack of belief in deities. That's IT. There is no doctrine, no dogma, no hierarchy, no chain of command. No texts, no songs or hymns, and no worship. Tell us again, how is it a religion? Bill Maher said it best ... "Atheism is a religion like abstinence is a se'x position." Or bald is a hair color, or NOT collecting stamps is a hobby.

      September 10, 2013 at 7:21 am |
      • CD

        Well said!

        September 10, 2013 at 7:53 am |
    • Bob

      The application of the scientific method isn't a religion.

      September 10, 2013 at 7:28 am |
    • Bingbong

      The burden of proof is on the believers. You don't have to prove that something doesn't exist, you have to prove that it does.

      September 10, 2013 at 7:30 am |
    • William

      Atheists don't have any responsibility to prove their claims – because they make no claims. They don't believe. They only claims being made are by those who assert a magical man in the sky. Burden of proof is on those making the claim, not on those who simply say, "Sorry, but I don't believe it." And FYI the bible contains the claims, not the proof, so citing the bible as proving itself is pointless.

      September 10, 2013 at 7:34 am |
      • John

        All things dull and ugly,
        All creatures short and squat.
        All thing foul and dangerous,
        The Lord God made the lot. – MPFC

        September 10, 2013 at 7:50 am |
    • Glenn

      I am an atheist but even I admit that, by the definition of a religion being that you believe in something that is unprovable, then atheism is a religion. We believe that there is no god, even though this may never be, and certainly is not currently, provable.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
      • G to the T

        You have a VERY broad definition of "religion" then. By that definition, the boy scouts could be called a religion or people who follow their horoscopes...

        atheism – without belief in god. Doesn't say anything about anything else, the rest is up to you. So if atheism is a religion, it is always a religion of 1 (i.e. me).

        September 10, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
  9. Bob

    When the Sun expands, and engulfs our little blue planet into oblivion, the Atheist will have the last laugh.

    September 10, 2013 at 7:03 am |
    • JR

      If the world blows up, there will be no one laughing. If they did, they'd be atheist *and* incredibly stupid to take satisfaction for the destruction of all life on earth.

      September 10, 2013 at 7:18 am |
      • Bob

        A fair bit of irony in the use of the word stupid.

        September 10, 2013 at 7:24 am |
      • Observer


        Christians take satifaction in God's near destruction of the earth with the flood since they approve of what he did.

        September 10, 2013 at 7:41 am |
  10. DesMoiner

    So in 1954 "under god" was added to show those godless communists that the U.S. had god on its side in the Cold War. Since the Cold War is over, and there are less "godless" communists to convince that god chose a side (ours), can't the soundbite simply be removed? It's not like it was a phrase enshrined into the mantra by Thomas Jefferson, or even old Abe Lincoln. 1954??? Sounds like an attempt by the 'thumpers' to push their agenda and they used the threat of nuclear obliteration to slide their words into our daily loyalty mantra.

    September 10, 2013 at 6:57 am |
    • Rolick

      What's amazing here is the sheer arrogance that she has more ownership over an entire country and can judge who lives here or not. This all makes sense though, people like her want the world to remain in some 50's TV fantasy land, Mom at home waiting for Dad to get back from work to impart his white male wisdom on the family. You know, the good ole days, like it was in Leave it to Beaver, and I am not making that up, someone on fox news was sad because the "the days of Dad, Mom, wally and the beaver were over" they were said because the world was not like a TV show. What I would say to this person is, if I had a time machine I would take you back let's say 60 years, not even a lifetime where you could not even be credable delivering the news because your a woman. See how it feels to have your opinion squashed and be marginilized simply because of who you are. And then think of all of those that you are doing the same thing to now. These people not only want to turn back the clock and then to fix time in one place that suits them, they actually want to live in a fantasy world of an america that never existed. The 50's was not all drive ins and sock hops. there was the side where minorities were second class citizens and were expected to stay in ther place, and if they didnt there would be trouble. The one where priests were above the law and had enough power to the point where women and children could be abused and shamed into silence. The one where our minds and our bodies were not our own and could be controlled by petty tyrants like those on Fox news. The message is, if you are like us, you will be happier, and if you dont want to be, or cant be, then get out.

      September 10, 2013 at 7:31 am |
  11. S

    I can't help but wonder how many people Mrs. Perino would get rid of if she could, and what we be left after she did.

    September 10, 2013 at 6:56 am |
  12. Dave Richman

    Dana is missing the point of the founders when they talked about freedom OF religion. The government is not to infringe on this freedom. I take that to mean that no law or judgement can infringe on anyones right to practice any religion. Its not a long distance jump to also conclude that the founders would also protect someone's right to be free of religion. This picture of many religions existing together does not include government control over squabbles that arise, when someone wants to infringe on the religious rights of others. Freedom is freedom.

    September 10, 2013 at 6:56 am |
  13. j

    I Pledge Allegiance to the flag, of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all...AMEN!!!!

    September 10, 2013 at 6:49 am |
    • Observer


      Have you ever read the ORIGINAL Pledge of Allegiance?

      September 10, 2013 at 7:18 am |
    • Hohnel

      I pledge of allegiance to the flag of the united states of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation , under the goddess, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.

      I like this way better...

      September 10, 2013 at 7:34 am |
      • John

        Nah, really tick them off, say one nation under allah. They'll go apopletic. You'd be able to count all the veins popping on their foreheads except they'll be jumping up and down screaming about how that is destroying America.

        September 10, 2013 at 7:54 am |
  14. Tom

    Yes it does matter when "under god" was added. 1954.

    September 10, 2013 at 6:46 am |
  15. Todd

    The existence of God is common sense. Something cannot come from nothing, it is a scientific law, so there had to be something there to create us. Many people don't have common sense, I run into them all the time!

    September 10, 2013 at 6:44 am |
    • um..really?

      And where did God come from, then?

      September 10, 2013 at 6:49 am |
    • Anita

      Well, then how was God created?

      September 10, 2013 at 6:50 am |
    • Tom

      Translation: It's totally science that God came from nothing. check mate! <- sarcasm

      September 10, 2013 at 6:51 am |
    • Tgo

      Todd, I'm glad you concede something can't come from nothing. It's scientific fact, right? So, whence came your god?

      September 10, 2013 at 6:57 am |
    • CafeenMan

      I love folks like Todd who on one hand dispute all science that doesn't agree with them but then want to use science when it suits them.

      Science has something you don't have, Todd. It's called evidence. When you get some evidence of your god then a lot of atheists will become believers.

      And nobody said everything came from nothing. That's a strawman argument you folks love to use. You should read up on the Big Bang to see what the theory actually states and it doesn't state that anything came from nothing. Only Christians claim that.

      September 10, 2013 at 7:04 am |
    • fxalbert

      If you run into people without common sense in the bathroom, it's your reflection in the mirror. If something cannot come from nothing where did your God come from?????

      September 10, 2013 at 7:31 am |
      • John

        Awwww, c'mon, you already know how they will respond to that. Since Gawd created everything he is above everything, including the laws of science that he created, praise Gawd.

        September 10, 2013 at 7:57 am |
  16. Renee

    If atheist idiots don't like the phrase "Under God" then just don't say it!

    September 10, 2013 at 6:43 am |
    • Tom

      Dont' say it but risk getting bullied. Regardless of that what does a 5 year old know about indoctrination, all they know is that all of these people are chanting the same mantra. "Get em while they're young" <- unspoken mission of religion.

      September 10, 2013 at 6:49 am |
    • Anita

      I consider myself atheist, but not an idiot. And actually I'm fine with the solution of just not saying it. I view the words as more of a tradition . . .one consistent with the Judeo Christian underpinnings of this nation. I'm not a believer, but recognize that many people are and for them, these words have an empowering, patriotic meaning.

      September 10, 2013 at 6:54 am |
      • CafeenMan

        Then you would be equally OK with "under Allah" instead, yes? You don't have to say it. And none of the Christians would argue against it either, right?

        September 10, 2013 at 6:58 am |
      • JoePub

        Thank you. I like your comment.

        September 10, 2013 at 7:02 am |
    • gfwilcox

      Don't be a bigot. My children were confused about why they have to say this in school. I taught them the could say "Under Glob" instead and people like you wouldn't know the difference enough to bully them.

      September 10, 2013 at 6:56 am |
  17. Michael F

    The pledge was changed in 1954 to add under God. There was not reference to God in the original pledge. Here are the reiterations of the pledge.
    Original 1892
    "I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
    1892 to 1922
    "I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the republic for which it stands: one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
    "I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States, and to the republic for which it stands; one Nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all."
    1924 to 1954
    "I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands; one Nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all."
    1954 to Present
    "I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

    It has been changed before and it is still possible to change it again.

    September 10, 2013 at 6:41 am |
    • Sean

      Moreover, the pledge of allegiance was actually a marketing move my a flag manufacturer to sell more flags. Capitalism at it's best (not a bad thing).

      The sad part is people like Dana Perino would be perfectly okay living in a Fundamentalist Christian nation that persecutes, prosecutes and executes any non-christian; hmmm, seems like we've see a few countries doing that exact thing, but under the name of a different religion.

      September 10, 2013 at 6:54 am |
  18. JW

    Pointing out that she said this on FOX says it all, really. She said it on FOX. Everyone watching FOX totally agrees with her so it won't matter. The rest of us who don't agree and find what she said reprehensible don't matter because this comment was completely and totally meant for the inhabitants of the far right FOX news bubble: old, white, fear filled, hate filled, religious freaks. We can't ignore it, but we must understand that as long as FOX exists, this won't change.

    Speaking about the clip itself, it's ironic that they (the commentators) ask the question of whether the phrase "under god" was originally in the pledge. They point out that it wasn't and as soon as the words leave their lips they say "Doesn't matter." Because of course it matters but facts are not allowed in the conservative, FOX news bubble. What they "feel" is what's important.

    I also have to wonder about the shrill lady towards the end who says she's "sick of" atheists being catered to. Ummmm, sorry, my dear, it's you Christians who are catered to in every sense of the word and it has been that way for centuries. Again, facts won't enter what passes for your brain. And she's also very righteously enraged that these young defenceless young children are being used as pawns and brainwashed. Isn't that EXACTLY what religion does? If your religion was the one, inescapable truth, why drum it into children's minds from birth? Why not let them discover it themselves when they're well into their teens or adults years? I'll tell you why. Because you have to be gullible and childlike to believe that crap.

    Christians, especially FOX news-style Christians, feel persecuted and under attack because they feel their vice grip on society loosening. They don't get everything their way any more. People stand up to them and stand up for their own lack of belief, and to them, that means they're under attack. Of course, when they were in charge, we were burned at the stake for deviating from their teachings even one iota.

    The time of religion is passing. FOX news and its viewers will take it hardest. The old, white, fear filled, hate filled generation with one foot in the grave will have the hardest time facing a brave new world free of the tyrannical rule of the eye in the sky that always judges their every thought.

    September 10, 2013 at 6:37 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      well said!

      September 10, 2013 at 6:42 am |
    • TED


      September 10, 2013 at 6:57 am |
    • DesMoiner

      Agreed. Time to start taxing the largest political lobbying machines in this loose collection of states; churches.

      September 10, 2013 at 7:00 am |
    • JoePub

      Bad job racist.

      September 10, 2013 at 7:09 am |
    • JoePub

      BTW, A brave new world free of the tyrannical rule of the eye in the sky that always judges their every thought? Apparently that won't change. It is just replaced with a new tyrannical rule of the eye in the sky that our every thought. Case in point, tthe uproar over the pledge of allegiance. I rest my case.

      September 10, 2013 at 7:11 am |
  19. david

    The biggest atrocity about the pledge is that our government is so arrogant that they changed the mans literature. Frances Bellamy wrote the pledge without any mention of god. To alter that is awful and very arrogant. This was done by IKE. Horrible.

    September 10, 2013 at 6:37 am |
  20. DannyC

    ...One nation, under CANADA!

    September 10, 2013 at 6:34 am |
    • Mirosal

      One nation, under Canada, above Mexico, with liberty and justice for rich, white, straight, Christian males

      September 10, 2013 at 6:54 am |
    • DaVuVuZeLa

      God, of course. Duh!

      September 10, 2013 at 7:08 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.