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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. Really??

    so many meaningful topics to report on and this makes news? sometimes, I really, really long for the good of days when there were only 3 tv channels to choose from, no internet, no twitter and so on........

    September 10, 2013 at 11:12 am |
    • doobzz

      The good old days when blacks stayed in the back of the bus and women stayed barefoot and pregnant, when cigarettes were safe and only bad girls had sex?

      September 10, 2013 at 11:53 am |
  2. Ryan Farnham

    This whole having the in God we trust issue is silly as well as one nation under God, it's silly to have it there but also what is silly is people fighting over words. For Christians God is Yahweh, to Scientologist it's Xenu (not really a God I don't think but God like in treatment), to some Buddhists the term could fit as the Universe and to Muslims it's Allah. Atheists are the only ones who really have the big issue with it because frankly they are left out, but like a child they feel the urge to fight and whine rather than ignore the words or move on like mature human beings, it's just words spoken and on paper, sure have a problem with such on public land, you deserve as much a spot, but words of logic are already on the bills, on the back of them E pluribus unum, "out of many, one".

    Ultimately Atheism is no better than any religion, it has the same traits and desires as a collective whole, they feel they are right and everyone else is wrong, they are just as big headed when it comes to fighting against religions who they claim are so wrong yet in doing so they do the same things when fighting and arguing, it's all just petty really. I used to be a strong Atheist but realised my own short comings and how wrong I was picking sides, now I see how silly it all was and wish that people could just get along and work together. Now I have no issues with anyone group, each group has their extremists and in each group they are generally not the majority and speak for them selves as if they were speaking for everyone they think they represent.

    Like Atheists I may not be represented and left out by the statements, oh well, woopty do, it only means something if you give it meaning, the same as if as a child you let a bully get to you (though as a child you can't understand it so easily and why bullying is a serious matter up until 18 but that's another topic), words are words and what is, is. Both sides have their faults, Christians who want a theocracy and Atheists who want a country from from religion, not all on either side do, really only a minority on both sides think this way and the rest of us are left calling them idiot children. Isn't it funny how both sides have the extremist folks as the leaders when the larger whole doesn't quite agree with how things are going, all to often that's the truth.

    Just some things to think about from another vantage point.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:12 am |
    • Birdyboyz

      Whine??? Are you KIDDING??!! Atheists don't care what ridiculous fairytales you believe in. Just keep it to yourselves.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:15 am |
    • Mopery

      So Atheists act like children simply because they refuse to believe in things which have no proof or evidence to support their existence? Seems like you've got that reversed.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:17 am |
    • TheDukeOfHighwayJ

      "Ultimately Atheism is no better than any religion.."
      And you would be right to dismiss them if atheists were advocating puting "There Is No God" into the pledge. But they arent so your argument falls apart.

      Removing the reference to god simply leaves it up to the individual to pick the none, one, or many.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:22 am |
  3. Lionly Lamb

    Shall we someday in the U.S.A pledge our allegiance to Sharia Law..?

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

    September 10, 2013 at 11:11 am |
    • Mopery

      I'm more worried about the Christian taliban than the Muslim taliban.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:12 am |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM

      Religion shouldn't be involved in the pledge period.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:13 am |
  4. Mopery

    I pledge allegiance, to the flag, of the Corporate States of America, and to the quarterly profits, on which it stands, one nation, under observation, divisible, with liberty and justice for few.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:11 am |
  5. J. D. Hunter

    It is not my government's proper job to be acknowledging "god" in the context of the official national loyalty oath (which is of itself not its proper job to be encouraging FREE people to recite as a matter of civil liturgy.)

    September 10, 2013 at 11:11 am |
  6. Dazagil

    "The litigious nature of some of these people, that includes gays, atheists, minorities, etc, etc. is overwhelming."

    Really?
    OK, understand something... when you aren't the majority (you obviously are the majority and have never had to fight for your right or had "normal" people look at you like you're bad for being different from them) sometimes you have to turn to courts or laws to protect your rights from the majority. Sheesh.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:10 am |
  7. Pig in a Poke

    "under God" can be as offensive to an atheists as "under Allah" can be to the christian right.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:09 am |
    • Thinker...

      I've always thought the Christian Rights' offence at the word Allah was strange. It means God in Arabic. That would be like finding 'da' offensive because it is the Russian word for 'yes'.

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

        In my experience most christians like that don't believe that "allah" and "yahweh" are the same god. but yeah, I know what you mean

        September 11, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
  8. JGN

    If they don't like it they don't have to live here? What a dreary life it must be in the moronosphere.
    How does this witlilng think ANY rights for ANYONE including her little self have ever been accomplished in this country? Does she think the same about every immigrant settlement which ever happened in the US including her own relatives? Does she think the same about the slave trade? This is not one nation under god; it's one nation under a huge soppy blanket of ignorance made up of people like this 'news pundit'.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:08 am |
  9. Jim

    Do I believe "under God" should be in the pledge...no. Do I really care enough to waste the taxpayers dollars on something like this, no. That said why not spend time discussing why churches and religions are tax exempt and absolutely abuse the privelage that they should never have been afforded. That would benefit everyone who does not attend or affiliate with any church. That to me is stealing from us all and completely allowed under false pretenses.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:08 am |
    • Thinker...

      My understanding of the tax exemption for churches was that it was created because churches are supposedly a non-profit organisation that would not have an income to be taxable in the first place. Back then keeping yearly tax records of not having any tax to pay was space consuming and expensive for governments so they were just exempted to save money and time. Today with computers that argument holds no water so churches should have to fill out tax forms just like the rest of us. If they have no taxable income then they still pay no taxes. If they are one of those mega churches where the pastors have private jets they get taxed like any other business. Imagine the revenue streams coming out of Branson Missouri, Texas, Florida etc from all those mega churches and televangilists. The frame work is already in place to handle them as a non-profit business so long as they play by those rules they should be fine. If they start turning a profit they either have to donate the money or pay taxes. Raising the pastors stipend is not charity. Buying the church a jet (not specifically the pastor, but he is the one who gets to use it) is not part of being non-profit.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:22 am |
  10. preserveournation

    Anyone who has listened to Dana Perino, should recognize that she has a gentle kindness and attempts to be fairminded. Since I did not hear these alleged comments by Fox News pundits in context, I have no reason to regard this article as an accurate analysis. Rather the objective appears to be to inspire vitriole from atheists.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:07 am |
    • truthprevails1

      Well if you listened to her hate, you would comprehend that what she said was completely out of line. The vitriol from Atheists is called for here. It is a Secular nation, not a christian nation!

      September 10, 2013 at 11:10 am |
    • Dazagil

      Anyone who reads your comment should realize that you think everybody should think the same things that you do after hearing someone or reading something. Different people have different responses because they think and feel differently about things. Some really good people feel exactly as you do, and some really good people feel quite differently. If you feel like Ms. Perino, it would seem you feel that the ones who think and feel differently than you should move to another country.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:18 am |
  11. Rick

    Don't have to live where? In a sectarian country? Maybe you religious folks should consider going to a religious country like Iran. That should suit you fine.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:07 am |
    • cool guy

      you mean secular, right? You dont have to say the pledge if you dont want to so you still have freedom. so sick of the athiests in this country forcing their way of life on the rest of the nation. I dont practice any religion, but it seems that the atheist movement is just going to court every time someone expresses their religion publicly. I think that is the opposite of religious freedom. If I want to be a christian, which I dont consider myself, I should be able to say the pledge and be christian anywhere, including a school or government building. the 1st amendment goes both ways.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:18 am |
      • sam

        "so sick of the athiests in this country forcing their way of life on the rest of the nation."

        That's hilarious. They knock on your door and try to preach atheism to you, huh? LOL

        September 10, 2013 at 11:28 am |
        • G to the T

          Removing religious bias is not the same as "forcing" anything on anyone. It's the opposite in fact – taking it out protects Christians AND everyone else.

          Is that really so hard to see?

          September 11, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
  12. TLORop

    "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.""

    He's suggesting that atheists thank god for giving them the freedom to be an atheist. Freedom of religion is a two way street. It give people the freedom to believe or not to believe. If you don't like it "you don't have to live here". I'm pretty sure you can find the religious intolerance your looking for in either China or Iran but I'm not sure your going to like the religion.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:07 am |
    • Pig in a Poke

      My thoughts exactly.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:15 am |
    • Jim

      No, he's suggesting that the pledge be used to thank the country for freedom to be an atheist, not thanking god.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:15 am |
    • pugh7755

      Or how about not saying words you don't want to say. It's a concept so simple that even an athiest should understand.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:20 am |
      • G to the T

        So then you would have no problem with "or no God" being added afterwards and then you can be silent when others say that?

        Can't you see how ridiculous that is when removing it solves the problem for everyone (and was the original anyways)?

        September 11, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
  13. Savior

    When you consider that 'under god' was added via the red scare, does that make you proud to defend it? Or does that make you like a muslim? lol

    September 10, 2013 at 11:07 am |
  14. Charlie Mike

    I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it used to stand, one nation of whining, sniveling, spoiled brats, under god (or bacon if you prefer), indivisible (until we sue you), with liberty and justice for ME.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:06 am |
    • Dazagil

      I totally agree. It's like these anti-abortion activists. They've been at it forever. If they don't like or laws, they should move somewhere else.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:20 am |
  15. Skyler

    People still believe in a god?

    September 10, 2013 at 11:06 am |
  16. Birdyboyz

    I see that there are still MORONS hanging around from the Bush Administration.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:06 am |
  17. Tim

    Atheist are the walking, talking dead. There is no light within them.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:05 am |
    • AtheistFools

      Exactly

      September 10, 2013 at 11:07 am |
      • a reasonable atheist

        What's the wattage of the light with you?

        September 10, 2013 at 11:10 am |
        • What is going on? FREEDOM

          It probably blew out a long time ago with that guy.

          September 10, 2013 at 11:10 am |
      • TLORop

        I agree but there's no light within anybody.

        I would challenge you to go find a list of famous atheists. On that list I will bet you will find someone who you previously as having so called "light within". Whatever that's supposed to mean.

        September 10, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM

      How would you know? I can only guess you have never seen or talked to any Atheist for fear of being ridiculed for your extreme ideology.

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

        Ridiculed by an atheist? are you serious? An atheist is just a drama queen disguised under the name atheism.. You can always recognize a tree by its fruits.

        September 10, 2013 at 11:12 am |
        • What is going on? FREEDOM

          You seem to be the rotten fruit coming from the tree then.

          September 10, 2013 at 11:14 am |
        • AtheistFools

          The only rotten fruit here are you crying atheists babies.

          September 10, 2013 at 11:16 am |
        • What is going on? FREEDOM

          Atheistfools you are the only one whining on here because you hate equality.

          September 10, 2013 at 11:19 am |
        • TLORop

          A'Fool' - Doesn't your bible say "Love thy neighbor", and "judge not lest you be judged".
          Why do you see the speck in your brother's eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own?

          September 10, 2013 at 11:55 am |
      • Derek

        I'm actually quite certain he has talked to many atheists in his lifetime...unknowingly. I'm also *almost* certain that he probably has an atheist friend or co-worker whom he talks with regularly and enjoys their company...all without knowing how much "light" is missing from "within them."

        It's religious folk like this guy who have the blinders on so tight that they don't even realize just how happy in life atheists and anyone else who doesn't incorporate religion into their lives are, further proving just how unnecessary religion ultimately is.

        I have absolutely no problem with people believing in religion. People can believe whatever they want to believe if it makes them happy. I only have a problem when religious people start forcing their religion on those who don't want it. Furthermore, the only way the religious people can rationalize in their minds why bad things aren't happening to the non-religious is to say that some invisible core of their being is somehow less than that of a religious person's, and that they'll get what's coming to them in the end. It really is a nasty, evil, vindictive little coping mechanism to help religious people avoid having to face the reality that all of the time they spend praying and worshiping God is for naught.

        September 10, 2013 at 11:18 am |
    • Birdyboyz

      Right, because when you eat your communion wafers, redundantly say the the same prayers and get fleeced by Joel Ol$teen you'll get "Light within you"" . You probably don't even know the first book of the bible or who wrote it's gospels. You're one of many who think's that if you go to a man-made building that is all of a sudden a "Holy House of God" it will get you a better place in heaven. It's quite hilarious,actually.I feel sorry for you. It is YOU that is empty

      September 10, 2013 at 11:11 am |
    • Eric Paul

      If you see a light inside you....you either swallowed a flashlight (not good) or you're suffering from some sort form of psychosis

      September 10, 2013 at 11:12 am |
      • Thinker...

        Hey now, he could have just eaten a bunch of lightning bugs.

        September 10, 2013 at 11:26 am |
        • G to the T

          Glow stick chugging?

          September 11, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
    • bostontola

      Tim,
      That's mighty Christian of you.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:12 am |
    • Bill

      It is that very statement and belief that has lead to the deaths of millions. Fore, who ultimatly cares about a person who has no soul, or is damned? The defense of every single murder in the name of diety, is that of the soul. "Their soul is lost, they have no soul, their soul is damned anyway,.. killing them is only a service to the kindom of God". It Is Insane Garbage.

      You sir, should be dehumanized, disected, and studied for all of society to benifit from. Then you will learn what it means to define another human being as being "the walking talking dead".
      Sickening.
      Shame on you, and pity for all who you bless with your horrid existence.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:17 am |
    • truthprevails1

      Stats show that Atheists are more intelligent and usually better educated.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:19 am |
  18. LOU

    Take your religious fantasy out of the public sphere....All religion is a joke..Religion is fairtales for adults.
    Religious people are ultimately delusional.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:05 am |
  19. mike

    This is a question for Dana Perino

    Ok... Fully support your idea... I'd rather NOT live in the USA ( for many reasons) ... How can I renounce my citizenship and where do I go after I renounce it ? Can I choose any country I want ? What if they don't / wont take me ? Am I stuck in this country then ? Please assist me... I really don't want to be an American anymore !!

    September 10, 2013 at 11:05 am |
    • Harry Cline

      You can go where ever you like. Plenty of countries will accept you if you're willing to play by their rules.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:10 am |
      • Harry Cline

        Maybe you can hook up with Snowjob in Russia.

        September 10, 2013 at 11:12 am |
    • Tucker Jones

      There are several ways to expatriate yourself. http://www.expatyourself.com/how-to-become-an-expat/

      Seems I recall a TV show where people were doing just that and the show showed them looking for houses. You would not be the first to do so.

      Thinking of it myself, but not because of politics or religion... I just know my ex will not follow me!

      September 10, 2013 at 11:13 am |
  20. Savior

    Perino's sentiment, no matter how stupid, is her right. She can say whatever stupid stuff she wants provided she's not actually taking anyone's liberties away. That being said, I wonder what her thoughts are on the fact that the pledge of allegiance was written by an ACTUAL, avowed socialist.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:05 am |
    • bostontola

      Who said otherwise?

      September 10, 2013 at 11:10 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.