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. kdmiller45

    ALRIGHT, I love this women, she has some real thoughts expressed, I hope she does not loose her job. Keep it up Girl.

    September 10, 2013 at 9:52 am |
  2. CamDen1

    It's pretty simple. We are SUPPOSED to have separation of church and state. We are SUPPOSED to have religious freedom. If I choose, religiously, to be an atheist, how does forcing me to say Under God in the pledge to my country not violate that freedom? As far as I am concerned, any Christian who thinks God should be ceremoniously injected into every citizens lives, any Christian who thinks this is or should be a Christian nation is more than welcome to leave the country. THEY don't have to live here, where religion should have nothing to do with our gov't, country, or allegiance.

    September 10, 2013 at 9:52 am |
  3. Mopery

    I've always thought the phrase "under god" should be removed simply because it destroys the metre of the Pledge of Allegiance, in that rhythmically it just doesn't fit, like trying to put 6 pounds of potatoes in a 5 pound bag. Oh yeah, and of course it should be removed because gods do not exist.

    September 10, 2013 at 9:51 am |
    • PennyK

      Yup, it's like the paragraph in Josephus that they love to point to as outside proof of Christ. Any honest person can see that it was just jammed in by zealous Christians trying to prove something to themselves.

      September 10, 2013 at 9:56 am |
  4. Eclectech

    I almost Never agree with Fox News and their ultra conservative reporters, but in this case, I agree. The current Pledge of Allegiance has been around longer than my 42 year life span. Why change it for a few sensitive atheists who choose not to believe in God and would rather re-write our history?

    September 10, 2013 at 9:51 am |
    • Thatguy100

      Simple. Because prior to 1954, the words "Under God" weren't in the pledge at all. They were put in as part of scare tactics against the "Godless Communists". They never should have been in there in the first place.

      September 10, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • tom

      You could use your same rational and say that the pledge never should have been changed in 1954.

      September 10, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • huhb

      Well, if you don't like it, you don't have to live here.

      September 10, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  5. KEKC

    What a stuрid bitсh ))

    September 10, 2013 at 9:50 am |
  6. Me

    "In God we trust"....thats fine but lets verify it first.

    September 10, 2013 at 9:49 am |
  7. Lionly Lamb

    Real eyes
    real lies

    Let us love
    Lettuce Love
    Love lettuce
    Love let us

    September 10, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • Mopery

      Let us prey.

      September 10, 2013 at 9:53 am |
  8. Bryan

    Would you be ok if it were one nation under allah?

    September 10, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • Keith Chadwick

      Um Allah is just the word for God in a different language...same God – lol

      September 10, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • Keith Chadwick

      Um Allah is just the word for God in a different language...same God – lol

      September 10, 2013 at 9:49 am |
      • Zeta

        umm...beg to differ. They are not the same. No whee in the bible is written Allah.

        September 10, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • dalewalk

      What a shallow, illogical question. Where do you dolts come from?

      September 10, 2013 at 9:56 am |
  9. Jdad

    It's Dana Perino. Need we say anymore?

    September 10, 2013 at 9:47 am |
  10. Rosa Birmingham, AL

    Atheist don't have to live here? Why don't the theocrats at Fox go move to a theocratic state? The US was founded on the principle of separation of church and state. IT is a secular country. We have just as much right to be here as anyone else. You leave us alone and we will leave you alone.

    September 10, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • mcjny

      thank you. Why don't we pledge our allegiance to santa claus, there is just as much evidence of him as of abraham's god.

      September 10, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • huhb

      Conservatives "think" they have a right to not share the country with people unlike them.

      They're kinda stupid that way.

      September 10, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • elizabeth

      It is our right to have Under God in our pledge just as it is atheist's right to not to say it if they don't want to. For goodness sake just don't say it if you feel that way. I for one am saying it. As far as don't live here. Live here and don't try to take my rights away.

      September 10, 2013 at 9:54 am |
      • G to the T

        Would you agree that the pledge is meant to unite us as americans regardless of our race, creed or religion? If so, then why do you insist that a good idea is for people to not say the parts they disagree with?

        September 11, 2013 at 9:56 am |
  11. Agnostickids

    If Atheists left the country, we would lose 93% of the National Academy of Sciences, but less than 1% of the prison population.

    Think about that, christians.

    September 10, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • t2vodka

      ROFLMAO, I love it, however, you are not insulting christians, science is from the devil after all, lol.

      September 10, 2013 at 9:54 am |
  12. Keith Chadwick

    'Under God' was added to the pledge of allegiance after being pushed by the religious right in the early 1900's. 'Under God' was added to the US currency in 1957 for the same reason. So it was ok to add it then but now people are saying that in a state where there is separation of church and state that having it in the pledge and on the money is NOT separation. The Christian-ban in the US is desperately trying to portray and make America into a Christian state almost in a reactionary way to the middle east. It was NEVER a Christian state it was founded on the principles of religious freedom but the founding fathers where VERY clear that they must be separated because they saw the folly of integration in Europe and that is one of the very reason they left and fought for independence.

    September 10, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • JP

      Just a little historical education. The idea that this country was not founded on Christian values and beliefs is at the least foolish and at best ignorant. The idea of religious freedom was set up for the state to not dictate what religious practice you choose to pursue. The idea of no religious values to the Founding Fathers would have been absurd. The idea of “In God” being about equality is another notion that doesn’t make sense. No one is forcing you to say the pledge of allegiance or use US currency. You have the freedom to do neither. Stop complaining about things not being equal, use a debit card for Pete’s sake. Life isn’t fair and the poor me stuff needs to stop. Appreciate what you have but don’t think everything should change just because you “say so”.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:09 am |
      • G to the T

        And separate water fountains just mean less lines for everyone right?

        September 11, 2013 at 9:57 am |
  13. 303

    The phrase "under God" was incorporated into the Pledge of Allegiance June 14, 1954, by a Joint Resolution of Congress amending §4 of the Flag Code enacted in 1942.

    September 10, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      illegally added. It clearly is a violation of the first amendment. Congressed passed a law respecting the establishment of religion.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:16 am |
  14. Becky

    Atheists are not the problem in America. It's another group that should leave the U.S. and go back overseas 🙂

    September 10, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • Doris

      The pandas, Becky? There aren't very many of them here.

      September 10, 2013 at 9:49 am |
      • Becky


        September 10, 2013 at 10:07 am |
  15. tom

    It's infuriating to hear people say that if you don't like something about America then you should leave. As if that would be an easy thing to do. Regardless, challenging the status quo is very American, to criticize those that do is un-American. And there is probably no network with programming more critical of US policies than FOX. Talk about hypocrisy.

    September 10, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • Jameson

      What have you been smoking? Whatever fox is selling apparently

      September 10, 2013 at 10:02 am |
  16. brian

    If the right wing political correctness machine had been around during the American Revolution, a big chunk of the atheist founding fathers would have been deported.

    September 10, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • tallulah13

      Actually, without our deist founding fathers and their respect for science and reason, there would be no United States. Perhaps we'd still be a monarchy or simply a colony of England. Far to many christians seem to think that our form of government just magically appeared. They seem to have no understanding of just how radical, or historically influential it was. They just take it for granted.

      September 10, 2013 at 9:54 am |
  17. textee

    The Democrat party has been controlled by the fundamentalist atheist left (and its feminists, tree-huggers, marxists, NAMBLA members, flag burners, racial tribalists, America haters, members of Obama's violent "Occupy Wall Street" terrorist crime wave, et al.) for a good half century.

    September 10, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • midwest rail

      Two possibilities :
      1. You're trolling for a reaction.
      2. You're delusional.

      September 10, 2013 at 9:46 am |
      • Jeff Williams

        I choose Door #2

        September 10, 2013 at 9:50 am |
      • Rosa Birmingham, AL

        I vote for trolling.

        September 10, 2013 at 9:51 am |
      • Jstic

        From Texas, why am I not surprised.

        September 10, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • me

      Your ignorance is unmatched... you don't have in iota of an idea of what the USA is about... you spout your foolishness as though you know something the rest of us don't, when in reality you are simply an ignorant fool... it's sad, but even people such as you are welcome in this great country. I'd suggest that you might want to spend less time spouting your ignorant gibberish on comment boards and more time understanding the true meaning of this country and what it offers.

      September 10, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • Jeremy

      NAMBLA? You leave the North American Marlon Brando Lookalike Association out of this!

      September 10, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • tallulah13

      I'm guessing troll.

      September 10, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • martin

      Well, if it was a 'good' 50 years, what's the problem?

      September 10, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • CamDen1

      You are a hilariously hateful person. I could talk about the pedophile priests on the conservative right or the Westboro Baptist Church on the right, or the republican obstructionists in congress who do way more damage to America than any terrorist ever could. Instead, I am just laughing at your incredibly dumbed down opinion of who makes up what base! You are trying to be inflammatory but it is just funny. lol!

      September 10, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  18. us_1776

    Hilarious !!

    This country was founded by secularist atheists !!

    That is why we have to principle of Separation of Church and State. One of the most brilliant governing concepts in the history of mankind.

    And as for the Pledge. Fox needs to do a little research.

    Here is the Pledge BEFORE the extremist McCarthy mo rons in the 1950's SCREWED with it:

    "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."

    Can be said without any problem by people of ALL religions or no religion. And that was the whole point.


    September 10, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • Rosa Birmingham, AL


      September 10, 2013 at 9:48 am |
  19. bthomas

    I shall live to see mass deportation of conservative nuts from this land to Mexico, where alcohol is cheap, God is big (even gangsters cant be atheists there, they believe in evil god lol)

    I would actually love to have a major show on TV that says this to conservatives. MISTER, YOU NEED TO GRAB ALL YOUR NUTJOB HOOPLA AND GEEEEET OUT.... TEXAS STYLE

    September 10, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • Jstic

      Or at the very least, the elimination of the Republicons as a national party. At some point in the next 50 years, they will be a fringe party at best.

      September 10, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  20. Lyn

    The pledge of allegiance was originally written by a flag salesman as a way to increase flag sales. Now, as non thinking robots, we make our kids recite in school everyday what was simply a marketing ploy.

    September 10, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • Felix

      And do you remember how it gets recited? Robotic is a good way to put it, with all the unnatural pauses at the points where the kindergarten teachers stopped to make sure everyone was memorizing it correctly, and high schoolers still say it in that weird, unnatural way. They obviously aren't even thinking about what they are saying, so why are we even having them say it?

      September 10, 2013 at 9:47 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.