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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
[twitter-follow screen_name='BurkeCNN']

(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. garg

    There aren't any atheists in fox hosts

    September 10, 2013 at 10:51 am |
  2. LOU

    All religions are a joke.. Religion is fairytales for adults..Belief in imaginary gods is the absolute height of delusion..These hosts are filthy bigots.

    September 10, 2013 at 10:50 am |
    • The Jackdaw

      All religions are true, but none of them are literal. –Joseph Campbell

      September 10, 2013 at 10:53 am |
  3. pensimmon

    What is the matter with some people that they feel if you don't believe EXACTLY the same as they do, you are WRONG. I am heartily sick of them. I thought the Christian religion taught love and tolerance?

    September 10, 2013 at 10:50 am |
  4. carlin123

    The hypocrisy spewing from the mouths of these commentators is so beyond the pale that it requires no response from a logical person. I will say this: Under God was added and so was in God we trust. Neither was wanted or necessary.

    September 10, 2013 at 10:50 am |
  5. Daniel Watson

    I think the Atheist movement isn't about atheist itself, it's about destroying religion in general with a very specific focus on Christianity. I think it's a sad day in America when we have change a pledge due to the words under god, what's next taking the phrase God We Trust from currency ? How does this help us move forward as a society or solve more pressing issues ? This isn't about Atheists, it's about challenging our society as a whole and changing it. America was once a great country because we did in fact believe that we were not the most significant thing in the universe: we had morals, we had rules and and believed there were consequences to our actions in life Now we think we have figure everything out. We now believe we are in fact the most significant thing in the universe, we are above the law and morals and as a result we can look around and see the decay of society slowing setting in.

    September 10, 2013 at 10:50 am |
    • ME II

      " I think it's a sad day in America when we have change a pledge due to the words under god, "

      Agreed. It was a sad in 1954 when they were added.

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

      Wrong. It was "under god" that was added in 1954, decades after the original pledge. We are not trying to change it to "one nation, under atheism" or anything like that. Just remove "under god", which was a direct violation of the 1st amendment when it was added in the first place.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:52 am |
    • Kat

      I couldn't agree more. Thank you for making a point without degrading others. It's very hard to believe that some people don't see what's going on in the world. A lot of people don't think it's so bad or that it's only getting worse. Someday everyone's eyes will be opened.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:52 am |
    • LOU

      Your foolish to think atheism is a movement.. its just people with a non delusional perspective. all religion is a joke.. all religion is fairytales.. god does not exist..religious people are a threat to common sense.. you must educated to see the world in a a realistic way.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:54 am |
    • AtheistFools

      @Daniel Watson

      Nicely said.

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

      Atheists PROVE the existence of God. Who in their right mind would spend five seconds discussing something that doesn't exist? The fact that some would take their time and energy to discuss something that to them isn't real, just seems to prove the value of the thing they deny!

      As for me and my house – I will follow the Lord Jesus Christ – and I will never deny Him........

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

        It is your fervent belief and your consequent actions and choices based on that belief that we oppose. When your religion demeans and discriminates against others for no other reasons beyond "God said So" it needs to be called out.

        September 10, 2013 at 11:15 am |
      • cedar rapids

        'Linda
        Atheists PROVE the existence of God. Who in their right mind would spend five seconds discussing something that doesn't exist? The fact that some would take their time and energy to discuss something that to them isn't real, just seems to prove the value of the thing they deny!'

        If that is an example of what passes for logic with believers then no wonder you are a believer.
        Heck, lets see......using that exact same logic then evolution and the big bang are correct simply because believers argue against them so much.
        And you are confused as to what the atheists are discussing....we know god isnt real but 'his' followers most certainly are. And you guys do like to push their personal religion on others.

        September 10, 2013 at 11:36 am |
      • Daniel Watson

        My cousin is an atheist and he is the most angry intolerant person that I know. I don't get the movement, its all about hatred. He hates people that go to church, he hates people with morals – all he does is talk about everyone else who believes in God. I think people who are atheists are depressed or are just unhappy with life in general and thus they want everyone else to be the same. I believe in god, but I also believe in science, not sure why they cannot coexist.

        September 10, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • AtheistSteve

      " I think it's a sad day in America when we have change a pledge due to the words under god, what's next taking the phrase God We Trust from currency ?"

      Both of which were not there before the cold war with the USSR. A knee jerk fearful reaction to a communist regime that was only coincidentally atheist.You make it sound like this was a founding principle of the government of the US. It was not. The founding fathers intent was to establish a secular government in direct opposition to the Old World models. To create a republic governed by rule of law, by the people, not from he pulpit.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:08 am |
    • cedar rapids

      'I think the Atheist movement isn't about atheist itself, it's about destroying religion in general with a very specific focus on Christianity.'
      I think you need to go away and stop being the victim and rethink that conclusion.

      'I think it's a sad day in America when we have change a pledge due to the words under god, what's next taking the phrase God We Trust from currency ? '
      sounds like a good plan.

      'How does this help us move forward as a society or solve more pressing issues ? This isn't about Atheists, it's about challenging our society as a whole and changing it.'
      that was done in the 50s when the pledge was changed.

      ' America was once a great country because we did in fact believe that we were not the most significant thing in the universe: we had morals, we had rules and and believed there were consequences to our actions in life '
      When was this? during slavery? trail of tears? jim crow perhaps? was that the great and godly time of morals and belief in god?

      'We now believe we are in fact the most significant thing in the universe, we are above the law and morals and as a result we can look around and see the decay of society slowing setting in.'
      Dont know anyone that thinks they are above the law, and dont know anyone, apart from believers, that think morality isnt also still valid.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:32 am |
      • Hitchens

        Morons...This is a secular nation. You can not force me to pay homage to your Bronze-Age fake deity

        September 10, 2013 at 11:35 am |
  6. AtheistFools

    You gotta love those atheists.

    http://assets.nydailynews.com/polopoly_fs/1.47815.1313761227!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/gallery_635/gal-gay-pride11-jpg.jpg

    September 10, 2013 at 10:50 am |
  7. Inquiry and verification in the mindset of the believer - how does it work?

    Let's check inside the brain of the poster "AtheistFools" to find out:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YIj4rLYo0c

    September 10, 2013 at 10:49 am |
  8. Neal

    An individual is not required to say the "under God". If you don't believe it, then omit that portion of the oath. It is similar to the military oath of enlistment and oath for commissioned officers. A Soldier/Sailor/Airman/Marine can elect to omit the "So help me God." portion of the oath. If you don't believe it then don't say it. Call it a Version A and Version B based on your personal beliefs.

    September 10, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • BU2B

      The points are the phrase was added in 1954, and was a clear violation of the 1st amendment. Yes there are probably more important issues in this country right now, but that does not make this case any less clear.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:54 am |
    • Kat

      I agree. No one is being forced to do or say anything. That's what it's all about. If something infringes upon your rights, it's bad. However, if something is just out there and you have a choice to do/say it or not, then I don't understand how it could infringe upon anything. It's much easier for someone not to say the words while everyone else does than for someone to try to slip in the words when no one else is saying them. I'm sure some teachers would find that disruptive.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:55 am |
      • cedar rapids

        'I agree. No one is being forced to do or say anything.'

        of course you are, you are forcing someone to make the choice to say them or not.
        and i am fairly sure if it was changed to say under no god because he doesnt exists you would be kicking up a stink about it, but hey, you wouldnt be forced to say those words, its your choice.

        September 10, 2013 at 11:39 am |
  9. skarphace

    Perino is absolutely correct. However, it is kind of like saying that the sky is blue. Of course atheists don't have to live here. Christians don't have to live here either. Nobody has to live here. Well, unless you are a convicted criminal, in which case you have to live here until your time is served. After that you can leave.

    And if Perino doesn't like it, she doesn't have to live here either.

    September 10, 2013 at 10:49 am |
  10. Loathstheright

    Dana Perino doesn't have American values, conservatives don't understand the separation of church and state concept. They are always trying to push their fake god and fake values on the real Americans.

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

      Ahhh so this is quite similar to atheists pushing their beliefs of nothing on Christians. I get it now.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:57 am |
      • RickN

        I've never had an atheist come knocking at my door trying to sell their beliefs. Only christians.

        September 10, 2013 at 11:00 am |
      • A in Pa

        Christians have been pushing their religion on people for ages.

        Everyone has gone out of their way to respect religion and the practice of religion.

        Every Church is set up and in the business of preaching, teaching, proselytizing, making invitations to churches, soliciting non-members for the opportunity to teach, bearing their testimonies about God and pushing their religion with missionary efforts to “convert the world” to their particular religion. Please don’t do me the disservice of denying the facts.

        There has always been a very well organized effort and agenda to be involved in government, schools and the community because it affords religious originations the opportunity to influence curriculum, the laws and those they come into contact with.

        Now that those of us who have thoroughly educated ourselves about religion and have discovered that historically many things that we were taught are inaccurate and many of thing things the bible teaches and many of the practices of religion are really mentally, emotionally and spiritually unhealthy and damaging psychologically and keep people miss-informed and emotionally immature and have attempted to set boundaries concerning religion and the religious agendas in our communities, with our laws and to protect children from being unduly influenced and indoctrinated at a young age and to stop forcing people to observe and participate in the religious rituals and practices out of respect for those who choose to follow certain religious disciplines.

        Now the religious people cry foul, we can’t take God out of the Pledge of Alliance, even though it was not there to begin with, it was added during a time when religious organizations had gained enough influence to actually have it changed. What is right is that we not have to swear allegiance to your God, while pledging allegiance to OUR country.

        September 10, 2013 at 11:36 am |
      • cedar rapids

        'Ahhh so this is quite similar to atheists pushing their beliefs of nothing on Christians.'

        care to actually give us an example of atheists pushing their non-belief on christians?
        and please be aware we mean actually forcing christians to deny a god

        September 10, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • A in Pa

      When did America become her private properity? It is childish to invite those who don't agree with you to leave the country. Wow, what arrogance.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:58 am |
  11. Karen

    The pledge of allegiance was written in 1892. The original pledge was designed to be recited in 15 seconds or less. The words "under God" were not added until 1954!! This phrase violates protections against the establishment of religion guaranteed in the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. We came to this country to escape religious persecution. It seems as tho those persecutors have followed us and are trying to push THEIR "God" down our throats again.

    September 10, 2013 at 10:48 am |
  12. Mopery

    Since we're pledging allegiance to the flag, shouldn't we change the phrase to "One nation, under flag..."? At least we know for sure that the flag exists.

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

    Let GOD sort it out

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

      Which one?

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

        Quetzlcoatl, obviously.

        September 10, 2013 at 10:52 am |
        • Mopery

          What a relief! Here I was thinking we'd be stuck with Mictlantecuhtli.

          September 10, 2013 at 10:54 am |
      • Felipe

        Zeus, he is the greatest God of ALL Gods...ok, now I will hunt unicorns, wish me luck!

        September 10, 2013 at 11:05 am |
  14. Uthor

    Ah, the old "love it or leave it" argument. That statement always comes from a childish mind–and it never did hold much water.

    September 10, 2013 at 10:48 am |
  15. Everything going on..

    With everything going on in the world and even our very own country today as far as violence and scandal, this is a pressing issue? This is important? Fairly confident that those two words will not change the direction of anyones day. Why not vote for it in the mid term elections? The greatest good for the greatest number, right? Nobody is forcing you to recite those two small words in the middle of a much greater statement.

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

      So we should leave them in there because they are are unbelievably small and ineffective? I think you and Kerry are onto something.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:54 am |
    • Randy

      Did it really matter if Rosa parks sat in the front of the bus or the back of the bus? Really?

      September 10, 2013 at 10:57 am |
      • Everything going on..

        Yes...because that directly affected her wellbeing, not where she sat on the bus obviously, but the civil rights movement was happening at that point. It is much simpler to skip those two words when reciting the pledge than making a huge deal of the fact they are there. Nobody will force you to leave the place you're at or beat you for not saying, "under God." Stop comparing apples to oranges.

        September 10, 2013 at 11:04 am |
    • ME II

      "The greatest good for the greatest number, right?"

      Actually, no. Many amendments specifically protect the rights of the individual from the "tyranny of the majority".

      September 10, 2013 at 11:03 am |
      • Everything going on..

        tyr·an·ny

        [ tírrənee ]

        1.cruel use of power: cruelty and injustice in the exercise of power or authority over others

        It has been a while since someone forced me to say something in a tyrannical sort of way.

        September 10, 2013 at 11:07 am |
    • cedar rapids

      'Nobody is forcing you to recite those two small words in the middle of a much greater statement.'

      no but you are forcing them to make a choice whilst reciting the pledge to their country.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:41 am |
  16. The Fladaboscan

    Dana Perino is a babe and I loved her on the Daily Show at the end of her stint but here she's talking like an idiot.

    Christians don't have to live here either and we'd be better off getting rid of a lot of them – or people that claim to be Christian.

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

      We were here first. Try Russia, see well they've done with God.

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

        Who was here first? I think it was the Indians. And what did the good christian European invaders do? Committed genocide against them.

        September 10, 2013 at 11:02 am |
  17. Peter

    As a person of faith, I totally agree that we have no right to force our beliefs on anyone in this country and that's what the right is often attempting to do. It's shameful and on behalf of people of faith, I apologize. This is not Iran.

    September 10, 2013 at 10:46 am |
  18. AtheistFools

    An atheist perfect world.

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-NWfsXW6UEKI/TgnoxN0Y_TI/AAAAAAAAAoM/pwSNcA-Tft4/s1600/gaypride+11+188.JPG

    September 10, 2013 at 10:46 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      bigoted troll

      September 10, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • The Jackdaw

      Is that a link to science and logic?

      September 10, 2013 at 10:50 am |
  19. BU2B

    I thought the pledge ended with "...with liberty and justice for all". I must be mistaken, it must say "...with liberty and justice for the majority".

    September 10, 2013 at 10:45 am |
  20. janet

    this is why all the children of abraham will kill each other

    September 10, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • The Jackdaw

      8 Billion people and one dad. Inbreeding leads to violence every time.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:46 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.