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. Esther

    If parents would teach their children the pledge at home, with or without "under God" according to their preference, kids could just say it the way they learned it. If you don't want to say "under God,", take a breath while those who so choose do say it. Or if you prefer, don't say the pledge at all!

    September 10, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • G to the T

      Or you could take the pledge that meant to unite us as one people and return it the state that would allow us to do so...

      September 11, 2013 at 9:18 am |
  2. Chaz

    I so totally agree....stop bending for everyone. the majority rules....and the majority of this country is Christian...Christ followers.

    September 10, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • ReligionIsBS

      But he's not even real....so thats a problem.

      September 10, 2013 at 9:30 am |
      • Tram_McDooley

        Nor was he likely ever real, considering the first gospels weren't written until 40 years after the supposed events.

        September 10, 2013 at 9:33 am |
  3. Mark H.

    We were fine before it was added to fight "Godless Communism" we'll be fine without it. The major religions are in a panic because they are losing control of the law making process and thus power to force everyone to live the way they decree.

    September 10, 2013 at 9:27 am |
  4. Leondis

    The solution, remove "under God" from the print and those who want to say it, say it loudly. This now is a freedom of speech act that cannot be challenged.

    September 10, 2013 at 9:27 am |
  5. magicpanties

    So, Dana, you'd be ok with "under Satan" since people can just 'not say it' if they don't like it, right?
    Otherwise, they're free to leave the country.

    September 10, 2013 at 9:26 am |
  6. Uncomfy fundies

    "atheists KEEP OUT!" and "Gotta Luv Me" seem a bit upset.
    Let's let them feel better with the "healing touch":

    September 10, 2013 at 9:26 am |
  7. Enzo

    Adults that believe an invisible man rules the universe are clearly mentally ill and shouldn't be deemed unfit to lead anything.

    September 10, 2013 at 9:26 am |
    • Mike in SA

      You're right...they SHOULDN'T be deemed unfit to lead anything. Nicely stated, although I THINK you meant "...SHOULD be deemed..."

      September 10, 2013 at 9:30 am |
  8. Vic

    Isn't it ironic that "under God" was added to the "Pledge of Allegiance" in 1954 during the "Cold War" to prevent "communism" in the first place and now atheists are calling to omit it?! It seems like another "Cold War!"

    September 10, 2013 at 9:26 am |
    • bookish

      No, a return to sanity.

      September 10, 2013 at 9:52 am |
  9. Proud Veteran

    Relgion and Politics, the two things should not only never be mixed but should never be debated. What a waste of time cause there is never a winner or losser just different opions that no one can change.

    September 10, 2013 at 9:24 am |
  10. Tolerant Agnostic

    Why don't all Bible thumpers just move to some island somewhere?! I mean that way they can have all the religious freedom they want!! I'm so sick and tired of Christians like her trying to tell others how to live their life.

    September 10, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • Barney

      That's how this country got started.

      September 10, 2013 at 9:30 am |
    • Mike in SA

      Perhaps Christians are sick and tired of being told similar...

      September 10, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • tired

      I am tired of our government trying to tell us how to live our lives.. one mans opinion is offended so he goes to correct it, in the process offending someone else, who then tries to correct it, which then offends someone else.. it can be a vicious cycle with no winners...

      September 10, 2013 at 9:33 am |
  11. Leigh

    Guess Ms. Perino thought the Pledge was anti-American until the Cold War, when they ADDED the phrase "under God" to it.

    Theocrats have no place in America. THEY are the anti-American ones.

    September 10, 2013 at 9:22 am |
  12. on the other hand

    Imagine there's no heaven
    It's easy if you try
    No hell below us
    Above us only sky
    Imagine all the people living for today

    Imagine there's no countries
    It isn't hard to do
    Nothing to kill or die for
    And no religion too
    Imagine all the people living life in peace

    No one ever said it better than John Lennon

    September 10, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      John Lennon's death is one of those historic days when I and others will always recall exactly where we were when we heard. I have been a huge fan all my life. But the refrain of that song is telling also "You may say I'm a dreamer..." John was a dreamer and the world he imagined is not reality and will not be reality. There will always be madmen who will step out of the shadows and shatter the illusion of idealism. How do you propose to deal with that? I say the answer is ultimately found at Calvary.

      September 10, 2013 at 9:26 am |
      • sybaris



        According to the story, some spirit borrows human flesh for a while then poofs itself back to where it came.

        Some sacrifice

        September 10, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • Proud Veteran

      Well Said. Bravo

      September 10, 2013 at 9:26 am |
  13. Justin

    The way I see it is that you don't "HAVE" to recite the "under god" portion of the pledge if you don't believe in god or other such imaginary characters. Back in the 1950's Americans were "god" fearing people. We live in a different time now. That's what the "law makers" need to realize. I am a veteran of this country and I do feel we need to instill patriotism back in our children, but we don't need to force them to give thanks to a made up idol if they don't believe. We are free to believe in what or who we want, or even nothing at all. I am not a religious person and I don't believe in this all powerful imaginary friend that was made up by some story teller. Was Jesus Christ real? Possibly, but I can guarantee that if somebody went around saying he was the son of god today we would all think of that person as crazy. What I can't stand is how some people take the bible as a very real and literal book. It is nothing more than a guide line on how to live your life and I am sure that was the original writers intent. The bible has been re-written multiple times throughout history and stories have been changed to reflect the ideals of the person re-writing it. There is no need to tell Atheists that they should leave the country if they don't like the use of the word god in the pledge. We live in very different times and less people are followers or hard core believers in god. Believe in what you want, it's your right as an American citizen. Just don't try to force your beliefs on anybody else. More often than not you will find that the so called believers are very judgmental when their precious bible tells them not to judge. I do think it's time to revise the Pledge of Allegiance to exclude the word "god". The original pledge never mentioned "god" as a contributing factor, look it up if you don't believe what I say.

    September 10, 2013 at 9:20 am |
    • ECassious2


      I respect your opinion, and you certainly have that right.

      With this said, you are incorrect in so many areas of your post as it relates to the Bible that I don't even have time to address it all. Please don't post as someone who understands the Bible and its intent/history etc... if you clearly do not have a clue.

      September 10, 2013 at 9:27 am |
      • Proud Veteran

        @ECassious2 And just where is justin wrong???? Did God or Jesus write the Bible??? NO King James commisioned the most recognised version and IT IS historical fact that the Men who wrote it argued about what was going to go in and be left out.

        September 10, 2013 at 9:37 am |
      • Scott

        Actually, Justin is correct to a degree. Historical fact is that the bible has changed over time. A prime example is...what version of the bible do you use? Look up how many different versions of the bible there are. You may be surprised...

        September 10, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • Proud Veteran

      Well Said Justin
      And Thank You for your Service.

      September 10, 2013 at 9:30 am |
    • TiglathPileser

      Now, you see, there is precisly the problem. Everyone, including you is trying to force their particular view on everyone else, and mostly with misinformation. The fast majorit of the 'facts' you hvae in your comment are simply wrong or trying to support your particular slant. Starting off by saying "immaginary characters" is immediatly espousing your opinion over someone elses and pushing your OPINION. To even suggest that Jesus 'may" or may not have existed is simply foolishness. There is no doubt in the mind of any educated person whether Jesus lived or not, whether He was the Son of God or not can be questioned. If you include silly statements in your opinion your opinion can, and should be, dismissed out of hand. Please get an education before spouting silly opinions.

      September 10, 2013 at 9:32 am |
  14. SeaTigr

    Ms. Perino better wise up to the fact that there is only one true God – the Flying Spaghetti Monster!

    Touched by his noodly appendage,

    September 10, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • MeinNJ

      Praise be!

      September 10, 2013 at 9:23 am |
    • Tolerant Agnostic

      I have two little meatballs that can atest to his noodley holiness!

      September 10, 2013 at 9:25 am |
  15. NoBS

    If she does not believe that people can have their own beliefs then she needs to be forced to live somewhere else. Some people's God is called something other than God. She shares some DNA with people like adolf hitler who thought his beliefs were above other people's beliefs. She should not be allowed access to speak on mass media. She will influence the ignorant to be like her and that's a repulsive thought.

    September 10, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Yeah, if there's one thing we need to watch out for it's the media influencing ignorant people

      September 10, 2013 at 9:22 am |
  16. JayFlay

    Actually Perino has it reversed......Atheists can live here, but anyone who watches Fox News should leave the country....

    September 10, 2013 at 9:17 am |
  17. rockysfan

    Get a clue on your history Perino. Under God was added by the red scare in the 1950's. It wasn't in the original pledge. This country was not founded by "christians" either. If you can't get your history right, what gives you the right to condemn others? Faux News at it again with bloviated commentors. Snooze!

    September 10, 2013 at 9:16 am |
    • Davis

      LOL at the Far Right getting their history right. You would have more luck getting a crack head strait.

      September 10, 2013 at 9:19 am |
  18. jony3322

    There are millions of United States citizen Buddhist fellows who do not practice their religious with some Gods. So, do they have to leave the country? Where is the religious freedom?

    September 10, 2013 at 9:16 am |
    • G to the T

      Good point – all too often christians in america figure there only 2 stances, Christian or everyone else. Our nation is based on so much more than that kind of thinking.

      September 11, 2013 at 9:15 am |
  19. Jason D

    As an agnostic I am behind their push to not have to say it, it doesn't have to be removed but just not be expected to say it, any more then fox hosts not having to pledge allegiance to their gestapo leaders...although they all seem to want to until they leave then come out with the reality of living in a fox hole

    September 10, 2013 at 9:16 am |
  20. Hey! You!

    Atheists don't have to live here. But we do, and we will make this a country for ALL people since you are apparently unwilling or unable to do so! PERIOD!

    September 10, 2013 at 9:16 am |
    • Tram_McDooley

      Your argument makes no sense. You don't have to live here either. It's not clear whether you're satirizing the hilariously self-contradictory arguments of the slight majority (i.e., we want you OUT of the country because we want liberty and justice for ALL), but if you are, good job, you've nailed it 🙂

      September 10, 2013 at 9:25 am |
      • Hey! You!

        Damnit Tram, I said 'PERIOD'. You're not allowed to respond! But since it was not clear that I'm an Atheist, your input is much appreciated, (and welcomed).

        September 10, 2013 at 9:38 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.