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. Jeff K

    Its the crazy right wing religious nuts who are disappearing not the more liberal secular types, sorry buddy.

    September 10, 2013 at 10:57 am |
  2. bostontola

    People like Dana Perino play to the audience. They have weak character. They are educated, they know that this country has a consti;tution that protects minorities (like atheists) and that is the backbone of our system. Much of their audience is ignorant and is taught to fear minorities. They play to them for ratings. You can argue that is their job. I gues you have to put food on the table, but if you had any confidence in your talent you could get a job where you didn't have to prosti;tute yourself.

    September 10, 2013 at 10:57 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      it's not news, it's reality TV

      September 10, 2013 at 10:58 am |
  3. hrdwrknjoe

    Ban it if it's meaning is for the "Christian GOD" but I think most of us truly enlightened Pastafarians know darn good and well that it refers to "The Great Spaghetti Monster in the SKY"

    Keep Calm and Pasta On!

    Please God take Dana Perino and the rest of the Fox dung heap to to your great garbage disposal in the sky, soon!

    September 10, 2013 at 10:57 am |
  4. Regnad Kcin

    Freedom OF religion means freedom FROM religion.

    September 10, 2013 at 10:56 am |
  5. janet

    jerry sandusky: christian, conservative, republican, santorum supporter, fox news fan

    September 10, 2013 at 10:55 am |
  6. Misunderstood

    Let's get it straight. No person has to leave this country because of beliefs. They may have to leave because of actions! There is no reason to have the word God on your money. These are actions that are done away with such as, burning witches, stoning people and the likes. Make no mistake; I will protect your right to practice your religion with my life if necessary, but lets not pretend that you really need the word God on your money. As stated time and time again religious rituals are for the home and church. If you want to do good deeds outside of that arena, fine, but we need to stop trying to tell others how to live. The same way of thinking about the practice of the word God on our money is basically the same reason why the Muslims fundamentalists do the incredibly barbaric things they do and feel good about it.

    September 10, 2013 at 10:55 am |
    • Bryan H

      "In God we trust" is on our money because that is all we truly worship – the dollar is nicknamed 'the almighty" for nothing,

      September 10, 2013 at 10:59 am |
  7. Glenn

    There really needs to be a third classification of religious belief, analogous to 'unknown', in addition to theist and atheist. It is none of anyone's business, including the government, to ask whether I believe in a god or not, nor is it the government's job to declare a belief, or lack of believe, in a god. Removing 'under god' from the pledge doesn't indicate that the government and it's workers don't believe in god... just that their beliefs are 'unknown', as it should be.

    September 10, 2013 at 10:54 am |
  8. churchstate

    Top Ten Signs You're a Christian in Name Only
    10 – You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.
    9 – You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.
    8 – You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.
    7 – Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Al lah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!
    6 – You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.
    5 – You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.
    4 – You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs – though excluding those in all rival sects – will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."
    3 – While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some id iot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christian
    2 – You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.
    1 – You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, catholicism and church history – but still call yourself a Christian

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

      Brian Likes this

      September 10, 2013 at 11:01 am |
    • Misunderstood

      Liked this so much I passed it on to my friends.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:01 am |
    • Loathstheright

      And they wonder why we think they have no reasoning powers at all.

      September 10, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
  9. Foster149

    More insight into the Fox News mentality, as if we needed it.

    September 10, 2013 at 10:54 am |
  10. Bishop Hairy Palms

    "Female victims of violence should make better decisions" Dana Perino

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

      Yeah, shows that she is a "heavy thinker".

      September 10, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
  11. Smarterest Human

    Freedom of religion, as long as it is christianity.

    September 10, 2013 at 10:53 am |
  12. Brian

    Religion is just Man's way to answer the Ultimate Question and insecurity of why we are here on earth and what will become of us when we die. I'm not religious but do believe it has some purpose in society. It makes the uneducated believe in something greater and have hope/faith things happen for a reason. A great way to control society's natural deviancy.

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

      Unfortunately, if you look at the universe timeline, mankind means nothing. We are just a blip or hickup and will never mean anything to anything but our own egos.

      September 10, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
  13. mp

    I do believe in god but find Perino's comments distasteful. Our founding fathers were very deliberate in seperating church and state, for good reason. Take a look at the Taliban and Sharia law for example. There we have an example of the non-secular state run amok. The "under god" language was added during McArthism and really has no place in the pledge. The expectation is that every american be a good citizen, whether they believe in god or not

    September 10, 2013 at 10:52 am |
    • G to the T

      Careful MP – well thought out response like that are usually frowned on by the other believers on this page.

      For my part though, I applaud your willingness to see the truth of this matter.

      September 11, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
  14. Got Brains

    Christians all look the same to me.

    September 10, 2013 at 10:52 am |
  15. Solitaire

    I'm tired of conservative bigots deciding they know who should be citizens and who should not.

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

      I'm tired of atheist bigots telling the rest of the country what they can and can't do.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:35 am |
      • Loathstheright

        Of course you do.

        September 10, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
      • G to the T

        I'd LOVE to hear an example of that happening... don't expect one, but I'd love to hear it...

        September 11, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
  16. Jeff

    Dana Perino doesn't have to live here either. She can move to Rome and hang out with the Pope.

    The Pledge of Allegiance was written in the late 1800s by a socialist, not implemented until 1942 and the "Under God" part was added officially in 1954. It is a very new tradition that real has no grounding in our "founding." The Pledge in general has overtones of cult behavior and the addition of the "Under God" part was just an attempt to stick it to the atheist Russians.
    This whole debate is lame. If The Pledge offends you, just do what I do: don't do it.

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


      September 10, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
  17. Lionly Lamb

    Godless atheists are the Muslim Jihadists' right-hand and thru Islamic double-talk: Christian Prohibitionists are giving America up to Islamic Brotherhoods much the same way Hitler gained control of Germany's political power...


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

      Make your christian love elsewhere

      September 10, 2013 at 11:01 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      All people are godless. The atheist just doesn't delude themselves.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:03 am |
    • Loathstheright

      Crazy much?

      September 10, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
  18. tevii

    The Fox host is an idiot. The argument is backwards, as It never should have been added to the pledge of allegiance in 1948. it wasnt there to begin with and it does contradict the separation of church and state.

    September 10, 2013 at 10:52 am |
  19. cfix

    Free of religion, my posterior body part. The group's executive director, Roy Speckhardt – is actually a Rabbi. So this dude should stop with his nonsense already. MF hypocrite like most of his parishioners.

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

      I agree: there is only one group that Jews hate more than Christians: Muslims. They are the modern-day Nazi and use the system to prosecute people they feel they can not fully control.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:01 am |
  20. treblemaker

    Atheists are under the illusion that their mantra of scientific reasoning to explain the meaning of life are superior to God's. Talk about pride and self-righteousness! Religion may be flawed, but so are human beings (paraphrased from the Da Vinci Code). The phrase "In God We Trust" adorns every monetary note, a perfect mix of church and state. The First Amendment was designed to allow We The People the freedom to worship God as we understand Him without the government telling us how to worship-NOT to eliminate the worship of God. Atheists are preaching the BIG LIE, which is far worse than any religion.

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

      Keep reassuring yourself that your beliefs are not a lie, I find it hilarious.

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

      Well let's see – you've managed to misrepresent all the people and groups you've mentioned. Congratulations – you deserve some kind of dodo prize.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:54 am |
    • ME II

      "In God we trust" was adopted as the official motto of the United States in 1956
      "In God we trust" first appeared on U.S. coins in 1864[3] and has appeared on paper currency since 1957

      It was not an original motto or phrase, that would have been E Pluribus Unum.

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

        Even better – let's go back to the original motto on the money – "Mind Your Business".

        For me that's a lesson most christian americans have forgotten...

        September 11, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
    • AtheistFools


      Good point.

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

        As if you could recognize a point. One only needs browse through these posts to realize you're just a troll with empty arguments.

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

          Doris if you only knew how much i care about what you're saying.

          September 10, 2013 at 11:03 am |
    • texasnotea

      What a bogus interpretation. Sounds like if it were up to you. we should remove the "freedom and justice for all" part.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:56 am |
    • cedar rapids

      'Atheists are under the illusion that their mantra of scientific reasoning to explain the meaning of life are superior to God's.'
      But there needs to actually be a god in order to feel superior to it. What atheists believe is that a scientific reason is more likely than claiming it was all magic.

      And as for money, shouldnt you as a christian actually be appalled that your deity is invoked on currency? didnt you get anything from the story of jesus and the moneylenders in the temple?

      September 10, 2013 at 11:27 am |
    • Brother Maynard

      "Atheists are under the illusion that their mantra of scientific reasoning to explain the meaning of life are superior to God's."
      Hmmm wondering if you would ditch 'scientific reasoning' if your child was faced with cancer?

      September 10, 2013 at 11:34 am |
    • Loathstheright

      Obviously you believe any lie told to you. Go ahead and believe the lies, we laugh at people like you.

      September 10, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
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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.