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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. max333344445555

    i find it hilarious that in the year 2013 we are still trying to codify a myth.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:18 am |
  2. CTexas

    Oh brother...here we go again.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:18 am |
  3. nata

    Atheists live a more pure and "Christian" way of life than ANY KNOWN CHRISTIAN or religious person. we don't judge others, we mind our OWN BUISNESS, we speak freely and we love harder than anyone I've ever known. all these religious bigots think atheists are devil worshipers or soulless.. that just shows how week you are in not excepting anyone unless they believe in what you believe in...it's amazing how "un-Christian" most religious people are.

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

      You can't be really serious, are you?

      September 10, 2013 at 11:20 am |
    • pazke

      I am an atheist and I really have to say that you can't generalize like this. There is no one atheist lifestyle and no one christian lifestyle. We are individuals.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • misewicz

      Thank you. I believe in GOD with all my soul. My GOD gets me through life. It's not the same god that the bigots that want people to leave the country and those that accept the persecution of others. The GOOD thing about Jesus was his love for others the bad thing about HIS " Christian " followers is their lack of the same.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:26 am |
    • Thinker...

      As an athiest I find your statement rather foolish. You say in the same sentance that athiests don't judge and then you judge all christians at once. Why do you need to make others small to make yourself feel better? Try to understand the motives and beliefs of others and don't lump people, athiests or theists, into such overarching groups; the groups are too broad and brings nothing to the table. If you generalise you need to do it with statistics to back you up not a gut feeling or personal anecdotes. We are far too prone to only remembering things that reinforce our biases and forgetting things that don't to rely on anecdotes and gut feelings.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
  4. A_Tolerant _Athiest-American

    I pledge Allegiance to the flag of The United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation (pause of my religious friends and then return with a resounding) INDIVISIBLE,
    with Liberty and Justice for ALL.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:17 am |
    • G to the T

      Tolerance is great when it comes to personal beliefs and opinions but when a government knowingly excludes others, that is not a situation to be tolerant of. Should we have been tolerant of segregation?

      Is it really intolerant to believe that the government of the country I live in should represent me as much as a christian? Is a government being religiously nuetral really infringing on ANYONE's rights?

      September 11, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
  5. MarkinFL

    How about we just put it back the way it was written by the good reverend before "God" was added by politicians in the 50's

    September 10, 2013 at 11:17 am |
  6. Ruppert Jenkins

    I have been closely watching Perino for over 9 years. I've always found her to be fair, reasonable, kind, and intelligent.

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

      Until today.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:24 am |
    • doobzz

      "Appearing on Fox News Wednesday evening, Dana Perino suggested female victims of violence should "make better decisions" in order to escape harm.

      The comment came during a discussion about the murder of 22-year-old Kasandra Perkins, who was killed by her boyfriend, NFL player Jovan Belcher. On Saturday, Belcher shot his girlfriend repeatedly, and then drove to the Kansas City Chiefs' facility, where he killed himself." http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/06/dana-perinovictims-of-vio_n_2251761.html

      That doesn't sound "fair, reasonable, kind, and intelligent" at all.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
  7. Bails

    It is pitifully sad to watch this world play out exactly as it is predicted in the Bible. We turn our backs on God...declare that there is no God...erase Him out of our lives. Live exactly as we want to, which certainly pleases that other "fictional force"....Satan. Ooops my bad. None of this stuff exists.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:16 am |
    • deavyin

      I see what you did there!

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

      Yes, we need a return to the good old days of religion, no more of this modern science atheist crap! Let's turn our backs on modern medicine and return to bloodletting. Let's be more humble and stop using electricity to power our unnecessary gadgets like refrigerators, air conditioning, lights, microwave ovens, televisions, computers, etc. That stuff is all inherently evil anyhow, as it was created by science! We need to go back to the Divine Right of Kings, then America could have it's own adorable little baby King to clog the airwaves with every burp, fart, or tinkle.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:22 am |
    • doobzz

      No one is asking you to give up your beliefs. We are asking you to respect the First Amendment, and to right a wrong that was committed by our legislative bodies in a reactionary response to the perceived threat of communism.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'Ooops my bad. None of this stuff exists.'

      well that part was correct at least.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
  8. T

    Separation between church and state...ha...I'm not sure it's ever existed. But like the demographics...that tide is shifting.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:16 am |
  9. musclecar61

    One atheist commented on equality yet I guess it only applies to them, as a Christian I have the right to say what I want in the pledge.

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

      Yes you do BUT YOU DON'T NEED A LAW TO TELL YOU THAT YOU NEED TOO.

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

        For an atheist only them are right and the rest have to go along with whatever they decide you to do.

        September 10, 2013 at 11:23 am |
        • What is going on? FREEDOM

          Atheist fools we are a free people based on many beliefs NOT JUST YOURS. You are a failure and a disgrace to this country.

          September 10, 2013 at 11:27 am |
      • Chiil Out

        The Pledge is not a law. Just don't "pledge" that part if you disagree.

        September 10, 2013 at 11:27 am |
        • What is going on? FREEDOM

          Including God in it is you foolish one.

          September 10, 2013 at 11:29 am |
        • G to the T

          Do you honestly believe that the best resolution for a pledge meant to unite us all as americans is to all say a different pledge? Really?

          September 11, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
    • JonC

      You have every right to say whatever nonsense you want...but you can't force someonelse to say that nonsense (stressing the word "NONSENSE").

      September 10, 2013 at 11:24 am |
    • pazke

      Do you have any idea how ridiculous you sound?

      September 10, 2013 at 11:25 am |
  10. Ron Yott

    God is not a religion but a concept. The government is not allowed to promote a certain religion. If you take God out of everything aren't you promoting the atheist religion of no God?

    September 10, 2013 at 11:16 am |
    • GrandOldPatsy

      No, there's a thing called "secularism"

      September 10, 2013 at 11:20 am |
    • deavyin

      I am so calling Poe's law on this one. No one unintentionally sounds so ignorant. You are making a poor semantics argument. and in doing so you are contradicting yourself. Are you also trying to say the 10 commandments are not a religion (in and of themselves) therefore they are ok? So the holy communion is not a religion (in and of itself) so is ok to have before class. Also, prayer is not a religion in and of itself so every class should start off with prayer. Oh god...you are so clever. Also, if god is not religion then how can you claim no god IS religion? Did i hurt your tiny brain?

      September 10, 2013 at 11:23 am |
      • deavyin

        also, sharia law is not a religion...it is a concept. Sure, just like GOD, it is adopted by religious people to fit into their religious doctrine but Sharia law is NOT a religion. Therefore, we should all have sharia law! Allah is not a religion either, it is a concept (and another word for god) so we should have one nation under Allah enshrined in our pledge.

        September 10, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • sm5574

      Atheism is not a religion.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:24 am |
    • cedar rapids

      'If you take God out of everything aren't you promoting the atheist religion of no God?'

      No.
      For starters atheism isnt a religion
      And secondly there is a difference between forcing someone to declare god does not exist, and not bringing up god at all.
      If you went to dinner at a restaurant and there was no mention of god on the menu, are you being forced to eat an atheist meal? If you travelled on a train and there were no crosses hanging up, would you claim you were being forced to travel on an atheist train?

      September 10, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • JC

      No, there's a difference. It means the government would not be promoting any religion (separation of church and state), not promoting atheism. Would you be happier if the pledge was "under Allah" or "under Buddha"?

      September 10, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
  11. Tony

    It is really quite amazing how often Separation of Church & State is ignored in this country. Everywhere we turn, government is in serious violation, yet the bible-thumpers say it is the nation's birthright to be a God praising country... and a Christian one at that. Apparently all are not created equal.

    Founding Fathers are spinning in their graves seeing how messed up this country has become...

    September 10, 2013 at 11:16 am |
    • thom havey

      "Separation of church and state" only means that government may not promote any religion as a state religion and that includes atheism.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:30 am |
      • cedar rapids

        well luckily the state isnt trying to force anyone to claim god does not exist.

        September 10, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
      • G to the T

        Right – so which is the more inclusive stance? No one is suggesting to legislate AGAINST belief, quite the opposite. By not being NEUTRAL on religion, the government is endorsing one view over the other.

        September 11, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
  12. Mary

    You can say anything and not mean it or agree with it. Since I was a kid I've recited the pledge and either choose to say or not say "under god." It doesn't matter. I agree that it should be left out, but since it's not going anywhere, who cares? It doesn't change anything regarding how "American" you are. Or what kind of person you are. Or what your beliefs are. Those two words mean absolutely nothing in the grand scale.

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

      "You can say anything and not mean it or agree with it."

      Otherwise known as lying. Why should I have to lie about what I believe to satisfy Christian bullies who demand their beliefs be encoded into civil law?

      September 10, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
      • Mary

        Not lying. It's called rote. Saying any pledge is rote, as is reciting lines in a play, singing a song...you don't have to mean it–you just say it. It's certainly not lying. If it bothers you, don't say it. You have as much right not to say it as they have to say it, and actions speak louder than words.

        September 10, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
        • G to the T

          I think some of us take our pledges and oaths a bit more seriously than you.

          For me – it is lying and I can't stand being forced/asked to lie about something. Then there's the pricinple of the thing, and I think that's the main contention here – it speaks to a larger question about the role of government in regads to religion.

          September 11, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
  13. micharea

    To pull a quote from IronMan3 (Hulk): "puny God..."

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

      That was Avengers but ya. lol

      September 10, 2013 at 11:23 am |
  14. J. Cristo

    It was added to the pledge of allegiance in the 1950s. "In God we Trust" was added to the currency in the 1950s as well. These hosts are out of their minds. It's tyranny by the majority. I love it how when questioned if it was added later (which it was) one of the hosts said "Yes, but it doesn't matter." Bunch of clowns.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:15 am |
  15. just a tidbit of history

    As Deist Christians, the first five presidents including John Adams, James Madison & Thomas Jefferson were likely to have quite a different notion of God than the Christian God of today. Deist Christians may have followed Christ's teachings, but usually refuted the divinity of Christ. They were always ready to call out on the dark side of organized religion:

    I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved – the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced! With the rational respect that is due to it, knavish priests have added prostitutions of it, that fill or might fill the blackest and bloodiest pages of human history. "

    (John Adams, in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, 09/03/1816)

    Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.

    (Thomas Jefferson, from Notes on the State of Virginia, 1785)

    Obviously Deism played an important part in the lives of the key framers who wrote the Constitution and its initial set of Amendments that we live by in the U.S.

    During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.

    (James Madison, chief architect of the U.S. Constitution & Bill of Rights – from A Memorial and Remonstrance as delivered to the Virginia General Assembly in 1785.)

    John Quincy Adams swore on a book of law.

    John Tyler, the 10th POTUS was a Deist Christian.

    Many believe Abraham Lincoln was a Deist.
    John Remsburg, in his book Six Historic Americans (1906), cites several of Lincoln's close associates:

    After his assassination Mrs. Lincoln said: "Mr. Lincoln had no hope and no faith in the usual acceptance of these words." His lifelong friend and executor, Judge David Davis, affirmed the same: "He had no faith in the Christian sense of the term." His biographer, Colonel Lamon, intimately acquainted with him in Illinois, and with him during all the years that he lived in Washington, says: "Never in all that time did he let fall from his lips or his pen an expression which remotely implied the slightest faith in Jesus as the son of God and the Savior of men."

    Theodore Roosevelt did not take the oath of office on a Bible in 1901.

    William Howard Taft, the only U.S. President to also hold the office of Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court:

    I do not believe in the divinity of Christ, and there are many other of the postulates of the orthodox creed to which I cannot subscribe.

    ========

    The Deistic side of John Adams comes out strong in these paragraphs A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America (1787-1788)

    The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.

    Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:15 am |
    • James Madison

      Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.

      The Civil Govt, tho' bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy, possesses the requisite stability and performs its functions with complete success, Whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the Priesthood, & the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church from the State.

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

    The court will never agree to remove it,,The overlords need the goyim to be as deluded and distracted from reality as much as possible...All religion is a joke, pure fairytales for adults.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:15 am |
  17. Mark

    I remember long ago my relatives explaining that all these blacks complaining about discrimination don't need to live here. The more things change .....
    Sorry Christians, you're on the wrong side of history

    September 10, 2013 at 11:14 am |
  18. Stewie

    Americans are too blessed and prosperous to be worrying and fighting to remove "under God" .... why not spend more time and energy to fight to other important causes that are "real" like child trafficking, improving lives of people that you care for etc.. if only people who spends thousand of $$ on the right thing i'm sure there would be a real positive change

    September 10, 2013 at 11:13 am |
    • K-switch

      By that logic, the poeple who fought to put it in should have done the same.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:14 am |
  19. Chettmix

    I suggest that we replace "One nation under God" to "One nation that looks out for each other and treats strangers with kindness" . Or maybe the Golden Rule

    I think that this would be a win win situation.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:12 am |
  20. Birdyboyz

    I thank GOD....for making me am atheist!!!!!!!!

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

      Who are we to question him? 😉

      September 10, 2013 at 11:41 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.