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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. Ian

    Freedom of religion is equal to freedom FROM religion, or prosecution based on my beliefs, no matter what they are. I say religious biggots and bullies don't have to live here and have NO RIGHT to judge other people.
    P.s.The sheer stupidity of faux is dripping down to other networks, trying to compete to be the blondest. CNN, stop trying to co mpete with faux.

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

      You have every right to your opinion; however, it's a little skewed. If you're going to try to make a point, you should try not to put someone else down while doing it. It just makes people think you're not the kind of person they want to be like. You can't persecute someone else while asking them not to do the same to you.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:45 am |
  2. DANIELLE

    IF THESE IDIOTS BELIEVE IN GOD, WHY R THEY STILL HERE. WHY NOT KILL THEMSELVES AND GO TO A PLACE THEY CALLED HEAVEN. ALL THESE RELIGIOUS GROUPS DO IS SUE EACH OTHERS,FIGHT,OR WORST,MURDER EACH OTHER.

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

      That would be fine if murder/suicide wasn't a sin. Therefore, "they" wouldn't go to heaven. You almost had me for a minute.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:48 am |
      • Kat

        Of course, by this, I mean that when someone commits suicide, they don't have the time to ask for forgiveness normally. God will forgive but you kind of need to ask for it.

        September 10, 2013 at 10:50 am |
  3. cfix

    I quite do not understand what the problem with the Jews in America is. They keep bringing such non-sensical law suits. The phrase "under God" Does not imply any connection with religion. "God" in itself is a universally used word for that higher being. Jews are not loyal to America, IMHO. Next thing they will want is to remove "In God we trust" from the bills? I bet they will be fine if we replaced "under God" with "uder Moses".

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

      I thought this was about athiests....

      September 10, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • Steven

      ummm...classic racism. America is made up of Jews, christians, atheists, buddhists, hindus, etc. What white supremisist town do you live in ?!

      September 10, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • LeRoy_Was_Here

      I would recommend a course in Logic 101.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:46 am |
    • Robert Goodman

      What fine Christian sentiments. Or are you not a Christian?

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

        A racist or ignorant retort. You are ascribing such beliefs to Christianity, which shows you are unfamiliar with the teachings.

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

      Wow are you an idiot. First, where is there any indication that this was brought by Jews? In addition, Jews pray to god. I'm guessing you don't know what an atheist means do you? I think mommy warmed up your milk, better do get some.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:47 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      That higher being you speak of is only a idea that exists with religion. All religions have at least one god, otherwise they aren't religions. God=religions.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:48 am |
      • Robert

        Yes, but: (god concept) = { }

        September 10, 2013 at 11:36 am |
    • In Santa we trust

      The gods of other religions generally have names, so god in the oath and on the currency is implicitly the christian god. I think it is also a good idea to remove "In God we trust" from the currency – separation of church and state.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • RickN

      You ask what's wrong with Jews? I think you should be asking what's wrong with christians. Why do its followers think they need to try to wipe out every culture and religion on the planet in the name of their religion? It's people like you that need to mind your own business and don't come knocking on my door trying to sell me on your mythology. History will show what the concern is. Over the past 2000 years, millions of people have died at the hands of those god-fearing christians who killed in jesus' name. If the wall between church and state comes down we all know who will be the first victims. Jews. So we'll continue to monitor those people that think it's ok to attempt what I refer to as a passive holocaust on us or others. That is, trying to convert everyone and thereby achieve what others have tried and failed to achieve, one world religion, christianity. I hold extreme disdain for anyone from any religion who proselytizes. It's a disgusting practice.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:57 am |
  4. Helena

    "Under God" does not support religious freedom and has no place in the pledge. Religion has a place in churches and people's private homes.

    September 10, 2013 at 10:42 am |
  5. Scott

    Christians regard equality as oppression. They do not want everyone else to be equal to them, they want to be superior. I would remind the Fox News personality that Under God was never originally part of the pledge, and "In God We Trust" was not originally on our money as our motto. Our original motto was E Pluribus Unum. (Out of many, one) We are trying to return these things to their original state, YOU GUYS are the ones who changed them in the first place to impose your personal religious beliefs on the rest of us.

    September 10, 2013 at 10:42 am |
  6. Derrick

    I really hate the “if you don’t like it you can leave” argument for about anything. There is no one who agrees with their government, church, community, etc. 100%. It is okay to disagree and have different beliefs, and I would argue, part of being an American. Does Dana Perino agree with everything the Obama administration does? If not, does that make her un-American? Should she also leave if she doesn’t like it?

    September 10, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • Robert

      Thank you for a breath of good American sense!

      September 10, 2013 at 11:57 am |
  7. Lionly Lamb

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76STxsWJCCE&feature=player_detailpage

    September 10, 2013 at 10:42 am |
  8. Roy

    It doesn't matter. Soon God will sort all of it out.

    September 10, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • BU2B

      We've been hearing that for over 2,000 years and your "god" still hasn't showed up. We're still waiting.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:42 am |
      • preserveournation

        Hmmmm...you reveal your religious background. Why so bitter?

        September 10, 2013 at 10:46 am |
      • Oh no they say

        Ever heard the story of Noah's Ark?

        September 10, 2013 at 10:51 am |
        • BU2B

          I've heard a lot of stories, such as the 3 little pigs, lord of the rings, humpty dumpty, and Noah's ark. Very entertaining stories, but that doesn't mean they are real. Each has the same amount of evidence (zero).

          September 10, 2013 at 10:58 am |
      • frespch

        And when he does whats your sharp wit and sarcasm going to utter.
        There is even scripture about end times when people just like BU2B will be uttering, since the time of Noah we have been hearing these things and nothing has changed.

        September 10, 2013 at 10:55 am |
        • BU2B

          Just more stories and threats to keep the sheep in the pasture. Some of us have minds of our own.

          September 10, 2013 at 11:00 am |
        • G to the T

          Well I guess after Jesus didn't show up during "their generation", the church had to figure out something...

          September 11, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • Hey! You!

      Or not.

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

      Good point!!

      September 10, 2013 at 10:45 am |
  9. Perfect

    Free country – some of the finest, brightest, nicest AND MOST COMPASSIONATE (aka FAITHFUL) people I know ARE ATHEISTS!!! THEY DON'T LIVE THE HYPOCRITE LIFE OF BIBLE BANGERS WHO SMILE AND TALK JESUS AND THEN STAB YOU IN THE BACK IF YOU DON'T AGREE. That my friends is not faith or religion it is self-serving hypocrisy.

    September 10, 2013 at 10:41 am |
    • Ira Radnick

      "Freedom Of" and "Freedom From" is where I stand... I do not try to jam my belief system down anyone else's throat, and I can do without others who feel they can try to do so with me. For the holy rollers who knock on my door asking if I would rather see a planet at peace, then invite me to visit their church, I say, "No, and neither should you wish for a planet filled with peace. In the book of Revelation does your bible not predict there will be wars, pestilence and great suffering before your lord comes back? If so, then you should be praying for war, disease, suffering and all manner of misery to be heaped upon humankind as it means his day is at hand. For me, I will be prepared to defend my family and myself because we are armed to the teeth and ready to deal with much of that misery, as opposed to counting on someone else saving my tail." That usually gets them on their way pretty quickly. Hey, not my words, straight out of their own book of guidance for a happier life...

      September 10, 2013 at 10:49 am |
      • frespch

        One more individual trying to make Gods written word suit his own desires.
        Gods warning of the conditions at the end of this system is not a battle cry for people to initiate violence and wars.
        But hey suit yourself, Ira because fortunately you do live in a free society.
        Believe or don't believe- that is the choice we all face.

        September 10, 2013 at 11:01 am |
  10. Ray

    American Taliban, "Let them live somewhere else" will soon become "kill them, the infidels"

    September 10, 2013 at 10:41 am |
    • Cwhat'sNew

      yep.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:14 am |
  11. Hugo Ahlquist

    I'm thinking that bigots don't need to live here.

    September 10, 2013 at 10:41 am |
  12. Cwhat'sNew

    As absurd as if we were hearing some odd things from those countries of totalitarian, this woman actually represents quite of the main stream of our United States of America, being the former Bush Spokeswoman and now Fox commentator. This is the reality, folks. Thinking of some people in the world would kill girls who attend schools or write books? We are actually not THAT far off from that yet. Don't be too optimistic, and keep working on it.

    September 10, 2013 at 10:40 am |
  13. ireuel

    She as all here keep reminding everyone has her right to freedom of speech. Oh and it is not spelled Faux, for the grammar police here. Get over it, they have a more viewers than CNN. Oh and God was a big part of the creation of this country. So go back to your Spaghetti Monsters fancy world and continue your right to free speech as we all are. Have a nice day.

    September 10, 2013 at 10:39 am |
    • truthprevails1

      Not the christard god, a deistic god maybe but most definitely not the christard god.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:41 am |
      • preserveournation

        "Christard" ??? Right... you're no bigot.

        September 10, 2013 at 10:48 am |
        • truthprevails1

          I fully admit to being bigot towards all gods, unlike christians who are bigoted towards anyone who is LGBT; women; or anyone who doesn't share their god. Christians are not so special when it comes to god, they just happen to be the ones who have their self-righteous noses in everyone's lives and thus the bigotry towards their god is deserved-without that god they have no reason to deny rights.

          September 10, 2013 at 11:07 am |
    • Ray

      "More viewers makes us right"

      September 10, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • Doris

      Which God? The Deist God? You know Deists believed then that God didn't play an active role in people's lives. Many of the founders also did not believe in the divinity of Christ.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Yep – God had a big part in the creation of America.
      The U.S.A. is a nation founded by the self-righteous. Though the term most often used in conjunction with the frontier settlers is "pilgrim", the proper term is "puritan". Those ships that landed at Plymouth Rock carried a tribe of people disillusioned with what they saw as the moral degeneration of their homeland. Convinced of their righteousness and confident in their role as God's messengers, they sought to impose their will on a new land and it's peoples under the guise of bringing elightenment. The mentality was hardly new, being the same Augustinian conceit of “Cognite Intrare” that helped fuel the crusades, inquisition and myriad other brutalities. Holding an entire race of people at musket point and condeming their cultures from a fiery pulpit, the arrogant, confrontational and technologically superior invaders saw no hypocrisy in killing those who refused conversion.
      Once those pesky pagans had been both diminished in numbers and relocated, America lapsed into a century and a half of insular navel gazing. Ignoring international politics, the nation's methods of rationalization became widely accepted and formalized. While paying lip service to the lofty ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the Const.itution, the pervasive mentality was obviously contrary to the "self evident truth that all men are created equal". White, Christian land owners may have been equals in at least an abstract, moralistic context but a slave based economy can hardly be considered egalitarian. The eventual abolition of slavery in a legal sense did very little to help the former slaves. Though denied the right to whip them thar ne.groes with impunity, the social elite were firmly established, milky white, “God fearing” and totally unwilling to alter the status quo in any meaningful way. No one save for the Mayflower descendents could realistically aspire to affluence or power. Some argue that this dichotomy still exists.

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

        What's does your lecture have to do with God?

        September 10, 2013 at 10:51 am |
        • preserveournation

          Lest the grammar police attack, I changed the verb in my comment before posting but forgot to change "What does".

          September 10, 2013 at 10:54 am |
    • In Santa we trust

      Freedom from religious persecution played its part, but as there is no evidence of a god, it could not have played an active part in any creation – USA, life, solar system, nothing.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM

      What is hilarious is that Fox News doesn't have the most viewers. That is a fallacy of carefully placed polls that disregard world wide view and all forms of tv viewing.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • G to the T

      No one is denying her right to be a bigoted idiot, we're just exercising our right to call her out on it.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:46 am |
    • Scott

      If god was a big part of the founding of this country, so what? Slavery was part of the culture when this country was founded too, and women were regarded as little more than helpless cattle in the culture of that time as well. (both in line with the bible as it happens, as the god of the bible Yahweh dislikes women tremendously and views them as little more than walking baby banks and condoned slavery directly)

      Your mention of Fox News having more viewers is an appeal to majority, a well known logical fallacy. Justin Bieber has more fans than most music artists, does that make him the greatest music artist in the world?

      September 10, 2013 at 10:49 am |
      • Doc Vestibule

        How ca you deny the spiritual resonance of such profound lyrics as "baby baby baby baby baby baby oh"?

        September 10, 2013 at 10:51 am |
    • Ya Think

      The reason Fox news has more viewers is that too many Americans need to be told how to think, vote etc,. CNN viewers on the other hand think for themselves so they don't need to watch Fox. That's also why we don't listen to Rush Limbaugh and the other clowns.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:53 am |
    • Scott

      Yes, she has the right to free speech and can say "get out" to atheists all she wants. Just as I have the right to say that you are a bigot and that atheists have the same right to live here as Christians. I love it how FAUX news people and followers cay "free speech" when ever someone calls them out for saying something stupid or bigoted or hypocritical. I say you have every right to sound "stupid or bigoted or hypocritical" and someone else has the right to call you out for it.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:55 am |
  14. ROCK MARTINEZ

    Dana Perino is a right wing George Bush loving 'bimbo' who can take her opinion and stuff it up her tight rear end. The country's biggest problem is religion and all the hate it causes. Christians are not always Christ like and show their prejudice and intolerance all the time and Ms. Perino proved that with her comment.

    September 10, 2013 at 10:39 am |
  15. LOU

    Religion is fairytales for adults.. These people are delusional fools and a threat to common sense.

    September 10, 2013 at 10:39 am |
  16. cj

    I can understand getting sick of the over the top, time and money wasting PC efforts we see all over the nation...however the 'They dont have to live here' line is about as ignorant a reply anyone can make.

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

      Yup, agree.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:39 am |
  17. Common Sense

    @J-Staff, I am not gay...and I don't believe. When I say the pledge...which is a pledge that I differ with, I pause when the words "under God" are said. I can care less what religion you are, I judge you based on your character...not your religion. If you keep it in the pledge...that's cool...I don't care...but keep in mind when I speak about my non-beliefs, don't stand there with rocks in your hands and then suggest to the crowd that I might gay, might be a lesbian, might be a jew, might be different...after all...it's your religions that build walls, start wars, and run rivers with blood. It is your "under God" and then your lamenting that whomever is an atheist must be gay. The real question is...are you really under God, or do you use him to suit your egotistical needs? The latter seems to fit...but then...I'm not your judge, your words are!

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

      Biting but appropriate.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:41 am |
  18. Owl Creek Observer

    I hate to suggest that the author, Daniel Burke, has written another anti-Christian diatribe poorly disguised as news, but of course that what CNN's "religion" blog is all about. For the record, Greg Gutfeld, who defended Ms. Perino's comment, is an atheist, not a Christian. This article makes it sound like he was jumping on the Christian bandwagon when in fact he was simply acknowledging the fact that his fellow atheists should not get their panties in a knot over this. Are you listening, Mr. Burke?

    September 10, 2013 at 10:38 am |
  19. Pam

    With respect to the Blog from Chris "Fox News...what an oxymoron", I think for the sake of brevity, we should delete the oxy and keep the rest of the word.

    September 10, 2013 at 10:37 am |
  20. JD - Indianapolis

    If our Leaders really wanted the Pledge of Allegiance to represent the nation and it's beliefs as THEY see it, it would read, "One Nation under Money".

    September 10, 2013 at 10:37 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.