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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. Mark

    When your god comes down and explains why it let 9-11 happen,
    why it let Hitler happen, why so many innocents have died over
    the centuries in its name, then maybe some respect can be shown.
    I don't deny the possibility of the existence of a creator. But
    belief is not truth. If it was, there would be only one belief.

    September 10, 2013 at 8:46 am |
  2. Elf Odin

    Fox News should form its own country; then build a border wall around it to keep themselves inside.

    September 10, 2013 at 8:46 am |
  3. akahn90

    And religious fanatics who only think their god is better then anyone else's don't need to live here either. After all this isn't a nation of just one single tunnel vision religion. If you don't like diversity, than Dana Perino needs to move to somewhere like Saudi Arabia where she only gets one religion. As for America, it's the "Land of the Free" for a reason, and that also includes freedom from religion if so desired. Don't shove your god(s) down our throats...

    September 10, 2013 at 8:46 am |
  4. evan

    Shows you how dumb all these ding bat southern fried women are. Hey did you know that This country was founded on religious freedom, meaning you can choose to believe in whatever you want as long as you dont force others. Forcing atheists to listen to all these god/christianity b.s. is not religious freedom and its like making all these dingbat big haired broads to pledge to Allah or Budda if you dont believe in it, then why should we have to see it and hear it. Take religion out of government and out of ppls mouths who dont want it and we will be fine. By the way there has never been a war over atheism like there has over christianity so tell me how brotherly you can be when you killing others. Shutup, go frost your hair and say you believe in god before indulging in all your sins. Im sure your jesus would love to see you half naked broads on tv saying his name over and over again. Dingbats

    September 10, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • The GOP need to pack up and leave

      This country wasn't founded on religious freedom. That's one of the myths that keeps getting retold. I don't know why people want to believe it. This country was founded on greed. Gold, land, trade, products, you name it.

      September 10, 2013 at 8:52 am |
      • Davis

        Actually it was born of the global conflict between France and Great Britain but lets not get caught up on silly facts.

        September 10, 2013 at 8:59 am |
  5. Arlen

    The pledge of allegiance, it could be argued, is blasphemous anyway. If you're a Christian you shouldn't be declaring your devotion to a "false idol" like the flag.

    September 10, 2013 at 8:45 am |
  6. Karloff

    I think that the pledge should be recited as it was originally written, sans "under god," by Francis Bellamy. How would Perino like it if someone edited her statement to "if these people really don't like it, they have every right to say so"?

    September 10, 2013 at 8:44 am |
  7. Thinkergal

    When my little daughter learned the pledge in kindergarten, age 3, she would say "underdog" (a favorite cartoon character) when she came to that phrase. I taught school for 30 years and always skipped that phrase as we recited the pledge to begin each school day–and I am a devout and committed Christian! The phrase "under God" should go, because it is an intrusion. of religion into a patriotic recitation that should welcome ALL Americans, not just believers. p.s.: Dana Perino is a very silly woman, not a thoughtful commentator at all.

    September 10, 2013 at 8:44 am |
    • SouthernCelt

      There is also a joke about Round John Virgin that I think of every time I hear Silent Night (in English). We, the Majority of The People, give you the right to say whatever you want (within reason), and believe in whatever minority opinion you want, unlike other places in the world. The Majority of us still believe and trust in God. if you don't then turn in all your money.

      September 10, 2013 at 8:50 am |
      • Atheist Bob

        Then the majority is wrong.

        September 10, 2013 at 8:52 am |
      • sybaris

        By your logic the Nazi's were right.

        September 10, 2013 at 9:06 am |
      • truthprevails1

        Majority doesn't rule, the Constitution does and it is by no means a christian country...get over yourself and stop the persecution complex, it's rather immature. The Constitution was written in the 1700's, 'In god we trust' was not put on anything until the 1950's-it means nothing and shouldn't be on money and soon it won't be...at that point you can whine to the government.

        September 10, 2013 at 9:07 am |
  8. Stevie D

    God and religion are two different things. argument over.

    September 10, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • sybaris

      Which God?

      September 10, 2013 at 8:44 am |
      • SouthernCelt

        There's only One. He's really not that hard to find.

        September 10, 2013 at 8:52 am |
        • sybaris

          Okay, is it's name Ra or Quezacotl or Zeus or does it go by a generic name or ?

          September 10, 2013 at 9:05 am |
        • truthprevails1

          You sure??? Best go to godchecker.com and stop your lying.

          September 10, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • Davis

      God is a creation of religion.

      September 10, 2013 at 8:49 am |
  9. Joe

    Yes, under God should be removed. What happened with division of state and religion? What happened for respect for all religions or nonreligions?

    September 10, 2013 at 8:43 am |
  10. JOhnnyboy

    If you believe in god, your just a tool

    September 10, 2013 at 8:43 am |
  11. Lalaq

    Dana Perino is an ignorant cnt.
    Her and her Faux News propagandists are an embarrassment to MY coutnry – they should leave.

    September 10, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • TypicAtheist

      How typical.

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

    I'm a christian and from the deep south, so if you want to slam me go ahead. I have no problem with taking under God out of the pledge. Your relationship with God is supposed to be personal anyway. If this family in MA wants to litigate, that's their right. This lady just made things worse, we should be finding ways to coexist and better our country, not say "here's the door" anytime you disagree with something. I have friends who are atheists and we get along just fine and respect each other's views.

    September 10, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • word

      where's the tolerance? What about those who want "under God"?- to hell with them? Why not just not participate if u dont like it so that way those who want it are not dicrimminated against?

      September 10, 2013 at 8:48 am |
    • sybaris

      always loved that, "Personal relationship with God/Jesus"

      You couldn't even pick either one out of a crowd

      I haven't seen my sister in 10 years but I know what she looks like, her favorite book, favorite ice cream, 1st surgery, daughters name, where she went to college, her husbands name etc., etc.. THAT is a personal relationship.

      "Listening" to imaginary voices in your head does not a personal relationship with anything make.

      September 10, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • Thinkergal

      I am so with you! Beginning with the phrase "I am from the deep south...." You write the logical truth in answer to all of this. Let's just revive the "how man angels can dance on the head of a pin" argument.

      September 10, 2013 at 8:50 am |
    • Proud Veteran

      Theres way to much My Way Or the Highway thinking in this country these days!!! Whether it in politics or religion or just because they don't agree with someone elses views. This is not what this country was founded on and it's becomeing a sad day for this nation. Unitied we stand and Divided we will fall to bad the later is becoming more apperant each day.

      September 10, 2013 at 9:06 am |
  13. Texas Anne

    News flash for the Fox host!!! He doesn't have to live here either. In other words, don't let the door hit ya on the way out bud. (And I'm not an atheist– just someone sick & tired of the vitriolic garbage spewed by Fox & their ilk all the time.)

    September 10, 2013 at 8:41 am |
  14. S

    "The group's executive director, Roy Speckhardt, called the suit "the first challenge of its kind," but Perino begged to differ." So do I – the Atheists have been trying to rid our country of any reference to God since at least the 1960s!

    September 10, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • Closet Atheist

      God must be extremely troubled by these developments. What's he saying on the topic...??

      September 10, 2013 at 8:43 am |
  15. justathought

    "Under God" ,"Together", and even "United" can fill the three syllable role needed to keep the pledge feeling and sounding almost the same. I just hope we can stop dividing ourselves and collectively respect our common interests. Pursuing happiness, helping our friends and neighbors in need, protecting our home, not discriminating against others, and educating the next generation are some of many common interests we have in this country. A three syllable phrase should not ruin our common interests. Just change the wording.

    September 10, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • Atheist Bob

      Agreed – change it back to the verbiage prior to 1954 and remove that stupid arrogant phrase

      September 10, 2013 at 8:51 am |
  16. tracy

    Amen and hallelujah! Totally agree...they are as extreme as jihadist in my book!

    September 10, 2013 at 8:39 am |
    • Closet Atheist

      Oh, tracy.... dear, sweet, ignorant tracy.....

      September 10, 2013 at 8:44 am |
    • truthprevails1

      Pot meet kettle :-). Stop the persecution complex little girl...imaginary friends are for children and schizophrenics...you're probably not a child, so schizophrenic it must be.

      September 10, 2013 at 9:12 am |
  17. magicpanties

    Yes, Dana, we should have Sharia Law based on Christianity.
    A real theocracy would be so much better, wouldn't it?
    I'm so looking forward to America being ruled by a Christian Taliban.
    Dana can be the spokesperson.

    September 10, 2013 at 8:39 am |
    • Atheist Bob

      Do you honestly believe we are NOT run by nutjob christians? The almighty church runs this boat and you are naive to think otherwise. All you need to do is look at any coin or recite the Pledge of Allegiance to understand the depth of their grasp on American society. In god we trust my *ss

      September 10, 2013 at 8:50 am |
  18. Davis

    So when Muslim children pledge allegiance to Allah is that a good thing. I think that it is not. It reinforces a belief structure that is destroying their culture. I don't see much difference here.

    September 10, 2013 at 8:38 am |
    • sybaris

      Do you know what the word "Allah" means?

      Do you know the origin of the Muslim god?

      September 10, 2013 at 8:42 am |
      • Davis

        Something just went over someones head.

        September 10, 2013 at 8:44 am |
      • Atheist Bob

        No one cares what Allah means – any religion that supports jihadism against anyone that challenges their beliefs or has the audacity to choose another religion or NO RELIGION (the smart ones), is one that simply needs to go away

        September 10, 2013 at 8:46 am |
        • Proud Veteran

          @ Athiest Bob Where do you get this info???? NOT ALL muslims believe in the jhad. Your comments are like saying all christians believe the pledge should remain rewritten as it is because of a phobia of communisim. thats the problem with this country these days WAY TOO MUCH ONE SIDED THINKING!!!!!!!!

          September 10, 2013 at 9:17 am |
    • grist

      Muslim children praying to their god is similar to Christian children praying to their god. That is distinctly different than American children praying to their god because not all Americans think there is a god.

      September 10, 2013 at 8:48 am |
      • Davis

        It's different but I'm not sure it's distinctly different. I see it more of a question of degrees. 25% of bad is still bad.

        September 10, 2013 at 8:52 am |
  19. SHANNON

    an athiest is only an athiest until they are in a situation when they need God's miracle or mercy. ex. when a plane is falling out the sky who gets called to stop that plane or minimize the casualties. Not logic, GOD, the higher power. As far as the pledge goes its a small thing to a giant.

    September 10, 2013 at 8:36 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      The old "there are no atheists in foxholes" argument.
      I'm afraid that is simply wishful thinking on your part.
      http://militaryatheists.org/atheists-in-foxholes/

      September 10, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • sybaris

      and yet your god has a pretty poor track record for stopping planes from falling from the sky

      Another way to look at it is the difference between me and your god is if I saw a child being ra.ped I would try to stop it

      September 10, 2013 at 8:40 am |
      • k210

        How do you know how many planes He kept from falling from the sky? If they didn't fall nobody knew.

        September 10, 2013 at 8:53 am |
        • sybaris

          So your god lets some planes fall and others it keeps aloft with its invisible hand.

          Wow!

          You know there other day there was a pink unicorn in my closet but every time I opened the door *poof*, it would disappear!!

          September 10, 2013 at 9:13 am |
    • Atheist Bob

      Golly yes – we've all seen the hand of god (lower case) every time we see a religious war, people starving in the streets, drunk drivers running over innocents – you get the idea – to imagine that a god of any kind exists simply supports my contention that the weak-willed perpetuate the ignorance. If a "just" god existed, there is clearly no indication that he/she/it gives a $%^&* flip about the course of the planet. Accept responsibility for yourselves and others and things will get better. Bending the knee, bowing to Allah or praying in the Temple are just the continuation of centuries old traditions of people who prayed to the gods for everything. Holy *rap people – think for yourselves – what are you? Republicans?

      September 10, 2013 at 8:44 am |
    • NoHopeForHumanity

      Shannon, I'm an atheist. I have had a near death experience which was a drowning (actually near drowning since I am alive now and drowning means dead). What was going to through my mind at the time was panic about what to do to survive and when I finally stopped fighting the current and realized I couldn't get back up, the last thought I remember thinking was, "Oh s**t." God never came into play in any of it. Please don't think for atheists since it's obvious you don't have the slightest understanding of us.

      September 10, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • jony3322

      If there was a God, then there would be no airplanes falling or failing at all. When I develop my program, it must be error free or the user will not accept it.

      September 10, 2013 at 9:00 am |
    • Matthew

      "an athiest is only an athiest until they are in a situation when they need God's miracle or mercy. ex. when a plane is falling out the sky who gets called to stop that plane or minimize the casualties"...........You are projecting out unto others the way you perceive the world. You are assuming everyone thinks like you do and this is simply not the case. But let me examine what you said from a different perceptive. As a young kid, my mom would drag me to church. At the end of the services the preacher would ask the people if anyone needed to be prayed for by the preacher. Most of the time an old person at the end of their life would stand out and say something along the lines "Yes, Pray for me. I have cancer and I need to be cured." This truly never made any sense to me as if you do actually believe in the after life you should be asking God to let me die and not suffer as I want to go to heaven now and not delay it by staying on this plane of existences. To me this was telling as it showed that they did not really believe in God or heaven. Their actions did not match their believes.

      September 10, 2013 at 9:14 am |
      • Brother Maynard

        Matthew sez:
        "This truly never made any sense to me as if you do actually believe in the after life you should be asking God to let me die and not suffer as I want to go to heaven now and not delay it by staying on this plane of existences. To me this was telling as it showed that they did not really believe in God or heaven. Their actions did not match their believes."
        THANKYOU !!
        I've made this very arguement a number of times without any answers.
        Additionally, I'm wondering if SHANNON looks both ways before she crosses the street? Why not just say "Jesus protect me as I cross this busy street" and then just go. Why save your prayers for the plane crash. If you truely believed .. looking both ways before crossing the street is a LACK of faith.

        September 10, 2013 at 10:46 am |
  20. rowing stone

    All those who do not believe in the invisible man in the sky must now leave!

    September 10, 2013 at 8:36 am |
    • atheists KEEP OUT!

      And nobody misses them.

      September 10, 2013 at 4:38 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.