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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. Believe

    For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

    September 10, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • The Jackdaw

      Congratulations, you can repeat things.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:41 am |
    • JD - Indianapolis

      “Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.”

      September 10, 2013 at 10:42 am |
      • The Jackdaw

        THAT is a word I can follow!

        September 10, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • cedar rapids

      'For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.'

      which means what exactly? its one of those emperors new clothes sayings......looks good, sounds great...but actually means nothing.
      For starters, slapping begotten in there serves no purpose other than to try to make it sound more impressive somehow, all kids are 'begotten'
      But he apparently gave basically himself, to save us from himself, and this noble sacrifice ended after 3 days when he came back again.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:09 am |
    • cedar rapids

      'For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.'

      which means what exactly? its one of those emperors new clothes sayings......looks good, sounds great...but actually means nothing.
      For starters, putting begotten in there serves no purpose other than to try to make it sound more impressive somehow, all kids are 'begotten'
      But he apparently gave basically himself, to save us from himself, and this noble sacrifice ended after 3 days when he came back again.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:10 am |
  2. Richard

    Christians are spirit worshipers and should have their faith in God tested. They should have a bolder tied to their legs and then dropped into a river. For if God favors them, they shall be saved.

    September 10, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • Vic

      That's persecution, and it is illegal. Plus, no one can test God!

      September 10, 2013 at 10:38 am |
      • I believe in Zeus

        Isn't that a convenience?

        September 10, 2013 at 10:59 am |
    • frespch

      One more idiot that doesn't have a clue what the Bible teaches.
      Richard is equal to Satan telling Jesus to throw himself off the cliff because God would send angels to catch him.
      For Richards benefit and those that think like him- Jesus answer was you do not put God to a test.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:47 am |
    • Nannalow

      Actually – Christians are told not to test God. There is only one time in the entire Bible that we are instructed to test God and that is in giving.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:55 am |
    • Pig in a Poke

      Totally uncalled for.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:03 am |
  3. Terry

    Really? I find it laughable considering all the statements that have been made on both sides. One thing about atheists...they sure spend a lot of time on something they don't believe in. Christians sure spend a lot of time defending something and espousing Christian values all the while driving people away. How about both sides shutting up and letting people believe how they want? Both sides are cult like and its disgusting the amount of news they get. If someone wants to believe in God let them...personally I am not offended when I see a cross on public property. If atheists want a billboard that says god does not exist, so be it their choice. Regardless of what people want to believe the moral basis for our laws was founded in religion so whether you like it our not religion is here to stay. Religion does more to feed the hungry and poor and to help those in need so it has its uses. But it is not exclusively theirs, as some Christians would have you believe...they do not own the path to heaven or whatever. There are many trails that lead to the end of one path.

    September 10, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • Hey! You!

      Because we don't like it constantly shoved down our throats!

      September 10, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • tom

      I agree both sides should shut up. But as long "under God" is in the pledge one side isn't shutting up.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • Steven

      I agree with all but one sentence "Religion does more to feed the hungry...etc" KIND PEOPLE do more to feed the hungry...etc! Feeding the poor has NOTHING to do with religion...only your morals.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • Robert

      Nonsense. Religion is an observable aspect of human mental and cultural activity. The relations of human persons to each other are worked out berween living humans, not nonexistent figments of someone' s imagination. As Einstein observed, ethics ia an entirely human concern.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • rabbitcommarogerindyreader

      Terry, the full logical fruition of what you suggest is that government be completely neutral towards religion. Leaving IGWT off of currency and "under God" out of the pledge is completely consistent with that. As an atheist, I don't make a whole lot of noise about those particular things, but they still stick out as inconsistent with the stated neutrality of government and the axiom underlying our laws that all citizens be equal under them. I also perceive that no one's individual right to exercise their religion would suffer if those words were removed.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
  4. Lionly Lamb

    In Godlessness to the godless put their trust upon the people's almighty portraying lust...

    September 10, 2013 at 10:36 am |
  5. The Jackdaw

    As an athiest, I can say that this entire thing is stupid. Nobody cares about the crazies complaining about the pledge and FOX news is just as crazy.

    September 10, 2013 at 10:35 am |
  6. Hitchens

    That blonde bimbo has such hatred in her eyes...WWJD

    September 10, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • Ray

      Well noted. those people over there really display contempt and hate every day for those who don't speak American Taliban

      September 10, 2013 at 10:39 am |
  7. Robert

    The god concept is an empty set. The Ninth Circuit was correct: Adding the phrase "under god" was a violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment. I will support representatives in Congress who will repeal the Cold War era addition to the pledge of allegiance.

    September 10, 2013 at 10:34 am |
  8. epenguin

    Those newsies at Fox are nothing but American. All about freedom of choice as long as you believe and act the way they do. Objective, no?

    September 10, 2013 at 10:34 am |
    • chieftrainer

      Dana is not a news reporter, but a pundit providing her opinion. By definition she plays a subjective role, not an objective role. It is the same with all news organizations including CNN. There are reporters and those who provide opinions. Pretty standard.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:39 am |
  9. What is going on? FREEDOM

    If you want to say "God" in the pledge of allegiance be my guest, but you do not lead a law stating you need to.

    September 10, 2013 at 10:34 am |
  10. AtheistFools

    If we let atheists rule the world we're going to end up like this.

    http://beingmyowntherapist.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/gayleatherwrong.jpg

    September 10, 2013 at 10:34 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Pointless troll. Do you have anything to contribute or do you just want to continue showing you are a bigot?

      September 10, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      If no one has called you a moron yet... let me be the first. Moron.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • G to the T

      AF – I get the feeling you are so far in the closet you're finding christmas presents from 10 years ago!

      September 11, 2013 at 11:52 am |
  11. steelerguin

    You gotta love the hypocrisy of David Silverman's comments. If most Americans agree with the words "in God we trust" why should the minority have their way. It's a pledge. Don't say the words if you don't like them. We are not talking about limiting people's ability to hold a job, earn a living, live where they want, say or not say what they want, etc.

    September 10, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • G to the T

      Most americans didn't agree with slavery being banned, but it was. Most people didn't aree with inter-racial marriage at the time, but it was shown to be unfair and was allowed. The point is that popularity is NOT how our government is supposed to run. It's supposed to REPRESENT ALL americans, not just those that happen to (currently) be the majority. That's why we are a democratic REPUBLIC and not a "true" democracy.

      September 11, 2013 at 11:57 am |
  12. Kristen

    Remember, the original pledge did NOT mention god. The phrase was only added in 1954. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pledge_of_Allegiance

    September 10, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • chieftrainer

      Is there a point in there somewhere?

      September 10, 2013 at 10:48 am |
  13. Vic

    The United States is a Christian Nation by the vast majority of its people and not by the form of its government. I believe it was a brilliant resolution to keep the Federal Government separate from the Church so they don't cross each other but that doesn't mean the people running it don't necessarily believe in God.

    So, "Under God" and "In God We Trust" are not mere coincidences but reflection of the will of the people. After all, the US government is "of the people by the people for the people."

    September 10, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM

      False. Majority does not dictate our country. You are throwing everything our forefathers created out the door you fool.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:34 am |
      • chieftrainer

        The majority indirectly does by voting for like-minded representatives. Think of it as a percentage. In an ideal political environment, the 535 elected Representatives and Senators would vote in the same percentage as the public in general. If it doesn't happen, there is usually a reset at the next election to get it back in proper balance.

        September 10, 2013 at 10:55 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      The religion of a given elected official should be irrelevant.
      In their role as a politician, they should be expected to act as Humanists seeking to find the best benefits for their consti/tuents.
      The serve the citizenry, not their given religious sect.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Why do we keep responding to 'Vic'? He has proven time and again that he is as smart as a bag of rocks

      September 10, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Vic
      First prove there is a god to be under or remove the phrase since it does not reflect all of we the people.
      seconf, In god we trust is a lie: proof
      I am one of we the people. I do not trust in gods. I am one of the all inclusive we, therefore since I do not trust gods, it is a lie. Do you really want a lie to be our national motto?

      Yeah, you probably do.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:41 am |
  14. Gus

    Religion, the largest brainwashing joke ever put on the human race. Nothing holds us back more...

    September 10, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • Dirk

      Holds us back from what?

      September 10, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • derp

      nothing holds you back more? how bout the belief blog? get up off your ass and stop complaining you bum.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:37 am |
  15. Exasperated

    You know, we're going to find out in the end who was right and who was wrong about God/religion, so why can't we just enjoy life without arguing so much

    September 10, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      What would be the fun in that?

      September 10, 2013 at 10:33 am |
  16. JFH

    “We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.”

    Richard Dawkins

    September 10, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • WordUpToo

      Brilliant!

      September 10, 2013 at 10:41 am |
  17. 633music

    No matter how much proof you offer....I still do not believe in Atheists.

    September 10, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      That's nice... but be comforted by the fact that atheists think you are an idiot; however, we will continue to try to advance the human race forward despite you...

      September 10, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • JFH

      Atheism isn't something to believe in. It's the absence of belief in a god. We don't define ourselves as atheists. I don't believe in god the same way that you don't believe in Zeus.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:38 am |
      • JFH

        and I meant to add that you wouldn't define yourself as a non-believer in Zeus now would you?

        September 10, 2013 at 10:40 am |
  18. Ray

    "Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'"
    ― Isaac Asimov

    September 10, 2013 at 10:32 am |
  19. chris

    Fox News... what an oxymoron.

    September 10, 2013 at 10:32 am |
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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.