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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. Dazagil

    Her logic is also horrible (besides the fact that I disagree with her) when she said,
    "our representatives have spoken over and over again and if these people REALLY don't like it, they don't have to live here".
    So will she apply that to anti-abortion activists? Roe v Wade has stood up over and over again & opponents of our abortion laws don't have to live here.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:26 am |
  2. Mike

    Typical Fox News Reporting.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:26 am |
  3. brads2sense

    Well, if we want to be realistic and truth-oriented in it's ultimate sense, the we really should replace "under God" with "under Money."

    September 10, 2013 at 11:25 am |
  4. Joe Rockbottom

    I didn't realize that Perino was an ultra right wing fundamentalist whacko. Now we know and can ignore everything she says from now on.

    The point is that "God" fantasies have absolutely nothing to do with our country. There is no god, so no reason to involve mythology in our public affairs. Right wing religious fundamentalists should just keep their beliefs to themselves and not inflict their mental illness on the rest of us. of course, if they want psychiatric treatment, we can help with that.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • brads2sense

      Yeah, but only if it was a christian-based therapist

      September 10, 2013 at 11:29 am |
    • Stephanie

      I also feel that her comments were out of line but I flinch when people so resolutely declare "there is no God". I respect your right not to believe and will defend your right not to believe in God. But to declare that anyone who does have faith is wrong and can be written off is just as wrong as my dismissing your right to not believe.

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

        anyone who does have faith is wrong and can be written off

        September 10, 2013 at 11:45 am |
  5. jay

    Public state funded schools should have no religion in them. Period. There is a separation of church and state. You want your kid to pledge to god then send him/her to a privately funded religious school of your choosing.

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

      Why would we have to change our kids from schools that was always this way. It's you atheists that wants it otherwise, why don't you just build your own schools that suits you.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:27 am |
      • sm5574

        Always = since the 1950s. By that logic, we should never have ended segregation.

        September 10, 2013 at 11:29 am |
        • AtheistFools

          Why are you atheists constantly trying to change a world that has always been this way. Why wouldn't you build your own schools system, your own communities and all. Is it because you're too lazy to do so, or is it because you just can't stop dramatizing?

          September 10, 2013 at 11:33 am |
        • Hitchens

          If there WERE a secular school system (public schools) that did not cave to the pressures from uneducated religious groups, they would be producing the best and brightest scientists and academians the Nation has ever seen. It's sad that you fairy tale believing fools want to force the absurd story of creation into Science classes.

          September 10, 2013 at 11:40 am |
        • sam

          'Always been this way'. Delusional fucktard.

          September 10, 2013 at 11:40 am |
        • truthprevails1

          The world has not always been like this. There are many belief systems that were in place before christianity took hold. You might want to check godchecker.com and adherents.com/ and educate yourself a little before spewing ignorance. Maybe study the Constitution and understand that regardless of your small minded opinion, you live in a Secular nation.

          September 10, 2013 at 11:41 am |
        • Richard Cranium

          A fool
          The atheists are trying to put things back the way they were before the christians forced their god on everyone. Get a life hharri/faith

          September 10, 2013 at 11:48 am |
      • sam

        Moronic troll is still at it, huh?

        September 10, 2013 at 11:30 am |
        • AtheistFools

          Sam, will you change your name and post under mine just like you've been doing to people for that past 6 months? Get a life Sam.

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

          I can't be bothered, you paranoid whackjob. Take your meds.

          September 10, 2013 at 11:39 am |
      • truthprevails1

        Those are our school's. They are funded by tax payer dollar and the Constitution specifically disallows for segregation in the public forum based on belief. There are christian schools not funded by tax payers, you can send your children there.

        September 10, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • Uset

      I disagree. Religions should be taught in grade school – with a litany of all that has been perpetrated under the guise of 'Godliness' such as the inquisition/s, purges and, of course, the Holocaust.

      'Religions' should be taught as a subject – just like Greek mythology, they have the same context.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:43 am |
  6. Fred

    Agree that nobody has to live here. So if one is opposed to something and they can't get law/policy changed peacefully then they can go to another country.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:24 am |
  7. bspurloc

    and muslims neither...
    all non christians should not live here righhhtttt fair and balanced?

    September 10, 2013 at 11:23 am |
  8. Mike

    Perino is the one who's free to move to another country! There are plenty of countries where God is mandatory! The United States is not one of them!

    September 10, 2013 at 11:23 am |
  9. denver

    I'm surprised that Dana Perino said something stupid. Really I am.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:22 am |
  10. Hell On Earth

    It's part of American history. Leave it alone.

    Not to mention the amount of time, money, and effort it would take to remove reference to God from every bill and coin we have.

    Aren't we $17,000,000,000,000 in debt, and you people are worried about a quote? This isn't a threat to any Athiest. You will never be persecuted for your beliefs regardless of what our national fixtures say. In fact, the atheist population is multiplying exponentially, and it is more likely that someday those who believe in a religion will be the ones who are persecuted.

    Quit complaining, and turn your attention to the real crisis that we have going on in our country. We are in debt past our eyeballs and economic collapse likely on its way.

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

      It's part of 59 years of American history. How long has America been here again?

      September 10, 2013 at 11:23 am |
      • Hell On Earth

        STILL American history!

        And it still isn't actually hurting any atheists.

        September 10, 2013 at 11:26 am |
        • denver

          So presumably you're totally cool with Roe v. Wade and Obamacare. Both are, after all, part of American history.

          September 10, 2013 at 11:27 am |
        • Hell On Earth

          And you're okay with adding even more debt to our government? You're okay with an economic collapse?

          September 10, 2013 at 11:31 am |
        • denver

          Economic collapse!? What stupidity is this. Removing "Under God" from the pledge costs nothing. Printing new currency- a constant, ongoing process- w/o the phrase would incur a minimal, one-time cost of changing the plates on the press. This isn't the road to financial ruin.

          September 10, 2013 at 11:34 am |
        • Richard Cranium

          HoE
          It hurts me. As a patriot, as a veteran. It takes away from the pride I have in this country. To have the pledge taken away from we the people, excluding those of us who do not believe in deities, and add in the lie "in god we trust" does in fact hurt me. Yes there are other thingas that are more important, but none so easy to fix, to put things right, the way they were before the christians forced their god on everyone.

          September 10, 2013 at 11:36 am |
        • amniculi

          Really? So you wouldn't mind if our money had "In Allah We Trust" or Vishnu, or Baal, or Odin, etc? What if the pledge ended with "Allahu akbar"?

          September 10, 2013 at 11:37 am |
        • Steve

          So was slavery....what are you suggesting?

          September 10, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • ME II

      "It's part of American history. Leave it alone."

      Wish they would have said that in the 1950's when it was added.

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

        +1

        September 10, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • HS

      Slavery is a part of history, should we have left that alone and kept it legal? Besides, the "Under God" and the "In God We Trust" on money are relatively recent additions, not something that's been around since the Founding Fathers.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:26 am |
      • Hell On Earth

        But who cares? I am an atheist, but I don't give a crap. There are far more pressing matters than what some news reporter said about atheists.

        I don't care, let those religious freaks have a good old time as long as it doesn't affect me. And I can guarantee you that the words in God we trust and under God do not affect me, I still use my money the same.

        The amount of money it's going to cost to remove God from every piece of money just because somebody wants it removed Is just going to put us into even more debt. We are on the verge of another economic collapse, and you people are concerned about this stupid thing.

        September 10, 2013 at 11:29 am |
        • Mike

          I don't think anyone is suggesting we remove "Under God" from all currency in circulation. This article isn't even about currency, but in the cases where atheists want it remove from money, they're referring to new minting of coins/bills, which would not cost us a cent more than it does now.

          September 10, 2013 at 11:49 am |
    • AtheistFools

      @Hell on earth

      You'll never be able to make those hard head narrow minded atheists to change their view. They were born that way, without a soul.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:30 am |
      • denver

        He's an atheist, genius.

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

        'Hell on earth' is an atheist, you douchewaffle.

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

        Without a soul? So becoming an atheist means you lose your soul? So when does the soul actually leave the body? And do you get it back when you become a 'born-again' believer? Or when the priest takes liberties with your son?

        September 10, 2013 at 11:37 am |
      • amniculi

        Technically he's right seeing as the soul is an imaginary concept. Everyone is born without a soul.

        September 10, 2013 at 11:40 am |
  11. Mike

    I find it ironic that they added the under god part in 54, which contradicts the very next part of the pledge.

    "I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

    "indivisible" = not divisible; not separable into parts; incapable of being divided: one nation indivisible.

    As soon as you add "under god" you've divided the country into separate parts.

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

      Very well said.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:26 am |
  12. Chris

    That does it. I'm never going to fantasize about Dana Perino again.

    Well, okay. Maybe I will.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:21 am |
  13. Johnny 5

    There is not one shred of evidence for the existence of a "God" therefore pledging to one should not exist. Remove it and lets move forward.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:21 am |
  14. Michele

    Well, since it was not part of the ORIGINAL pledge, it should be removed. Oh, wait, why are these are fright wing religinuts saying not to remove it when it wasn't part of the ORIGINAL? They're all so in love with their idea of what "the Founders" intended except when it is brought to their attention that the Founders warned specifically about keeping religion far away from government, and to fear nothing so much as a state-sanctioned faith. In this case, I'm right with you wingers, let's go back the what the ORIGINAL FOUNDERS intended – which is believe whatever nonsense you wish, but keep it to yourself.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:19 am |
  15. Olaf Big

    Good to see that our Congress is busy with really important things, like whether to keep "under God" phrase in the pledge of allegiance. Really, who cares about economy, climate change, and loss of U.S. leadership in science and technology as long as we rest assured that "under God" is hearde every day "from sea to shining sea".

    September 10, 2013 at 11:19 am |
    • ME II

      Actually, I don't think Congress is involved at the moment. This was about a lawsuit.

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

        yup. either poster didn't read the article or doesn't understand the system.

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

    If a conservative disagrees with a liberal, they are a "hater". If a liberal disagrees with a conservative, they are "open minded". Why do we tolerate hypocritical double standards?

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

      I think you have that backwards.

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

      Because liberals are often the side arguing for equality, while conservatives typically feel threatened by anything that raises a minority closer to their level of "equality"

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

        What a flat out bs claim.

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

          Just because you don't like it doesn't make it false.

          September 10, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • Mike

      The times you are thinking of is when a conservative disagrees with a liberal on civil rights. You can disagree all you like about if people are equal, if all religions (or lack of religions) should be treated equal or not, but it open you up to ridicule.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • brian

      it's called Ad hominem.

      Why can't we disagree and figure out how to agree without the name calling.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'steelerguin – If a conservative disagrees with a liberal, they are a "hater". If a liberal disagrees with a conservative, they are "open minded".

      Its been my experience that if a liberal disagrees with a conservative they are labelled 'communist' or 'marxist'

      September 10, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
  17. Doc Vestibule

    It seems certain Americans would like to put a few addendums onto famous docu/ments.
    "We hold these truths to be self evident – that all Christian, hetero, white males are created equal"
    "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free – (as long as they're Christian)"

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

    Ok, so let me get this straight, you don't want to say it because you don't believe it so in turn you will stop everyone else from having the right to say it when they believe it? I just want to be sure I am understanding the YET AGAIN, we are taking a right away from many to satisfy few. Line up folks, America is for sale to anyone who wants to make it all their own.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:19 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      The US government and all its appartus' – which included public schools – is supposed to be explicitly secular.
      To bring mention of religion into something children recite each day amounts to governmentally imposed religion.

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

      The US Government shall make no law respecting the establishment of a religion. Prohibiting the free exercise thereof doesn't apply here. No one is stopping you from believing in God but it can't be part of a government sanctioned event like say, reciting a pledge of allegiance. Period. No more discussion necessary. We have a secular government. Get over it.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:30 am |
      • reasonablebe

        agreed.

        September 10, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • devils advocate

      So the same could be said in reverse, we need to make everyone else say it that does not want to, or believe it. That is a double standard in itself. I am getting tired of hearing others state that everyone has a right to believe what they want, but everything that is said in public has to revolve around some Christian doctrine or otherwise. How about we put Merry meet or merry part and bright blessings on paper currency... instead it states in GOD we trust... I don't... but the underlying premise is I am supposed to because I hold faith to the country, therefore by default I trust in GOD. Those that follow other faiths are persecuted politically, publically, and socially. How many times has an election been interlaced with how the Christian faiths are going to be affected... no one is going to go up and talk about their own faith because they know they are a religions, or belief minority and would be shunned from even attempting to hold some sort of political office. I guess my point here is, it does not matter that our forefathers wanted to separate religion form the state, the fact is, it (meaning Christianity) interceded itself again as not only a dominating force, but as an opposing force as well and has dictated that regardless of what the original message is, everyone else has to sit down and shut up so it takes center stage.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • reasonablebe

      saying don't put it in a recitation every child must say- or be singled out by their peers and teachers- at the start of a public school day is NOT saying anyone who wants to say it cannot... but having it in is no different than requiring the lord's prayer or any other religious statement included in the school day.

      would you feel the same if the phrase was from a hebrew or hindu or muslim or druid religious dogma? how about if the phrase was something like, ' under zues?' or how about the atheist version, ' under mother nature's watch?'

      those who are religious are free to make reference and/or pray to whomever/whatever variety of deity they believ in/follow where ever they want whenever they want (although if it is in the middle of something others are involved in, they should do so quietly or silently). those who do not believe or follow religious beliefs or who are atheist should NOT be required to either refrain from participation in a daily school mass recital or say something they don't believe in in order not to be singled out (which is really hard to endure when young).

      many teachers in many schools have just stopped the pledge recitation altogether as it avoids any issue concerning student religious convictions. so either take the phrase out, or just dispense with the recitation. saying you can opt out is not realistic-- and letting kids mouth without saying or sub in a different phrase encourages children to be deceitful to fit in- not a good thing to teach. leave religious statements and indoctrination where they belong- home, church, secondary school/college humanities classes.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:38 am |
      • devils advocate

        Well said. This is an issue that will never be pit to rest, but I think what is coming to the forefront is the hypocrisy that has been initiated, such as you can believe what you want, but the only thing you see in public or politics is what is being promoted under a Christian doctrine. GOD is mentioned everywhere, yet we are told we don't have to believe it. Truthfully, I am tired of seeing GOD everywhere I go, as if I am being guilted because I don't follow him, or believe in him as the sole deity of the entire universe. I think a movement should be stared to put up billboards everywhere with many doctrines motivational statements. Bright blessings everyone!!!

        September 10, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • Brian

      Susan you are the A-typical christian moron who feels that just because they have "faith" in the santa clause figure that everyone should be subject to your mundane archaic choice of a so called religion, and that its perfectly acceptable to force feed us your diatribe of bile and that the millions of "non believers" just have to put up with your views, not only that but we are the bad people for complaining about it and crying injustice? which for the record it is.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • devils advocate

      Susan, so your saying that the few of us don't matter then, just sit down and shut up and let the majority have their way... isn't that considered repression, and in this case it would be religious repression, regardless if and what you believe other than some Christian doctrine.

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

      'Ok, so let me get this straight, you don't want to say it because you don't believe it so in turn you will stop everyone else from having the right to say it when they believe it? I just want to be sure I am understanding the YET AGAIN, we are taking a right away from many to satisfy few'

      What right is actually being taken away from you? Are you losing your right to believe, at all?
      You seem to be confused into believing that pushing your faith on others is somehow something you are ent itled to do.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
  19. Observer

    Is Dana Perino trying to fill the Republican bimbo void left by Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann?

    September 10, 2013 at 11:19 am |
  20. bostontola

    Based on the comments by religious people in this blog you would conclude that religious people prefer ignorance over education. They ignore the history of their own country. They don't understand that the consti;tution was created to protect the minority from majority rule, it designed our government to distribute power rather than concentrate it. But as the majority, Christians would prefer a different system where the majority ruled. They are the ones that should leave if they don't like our system.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:18 am |
    • sm5574

      People always want to maintain the power they have and to gain more. Whether they be in the minority or the majority, whether that power be political or psychological or whatever. And people do this symbolically by vilifying those who disagree with them. It's part of the human condition and is unlikely to change.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:28 am |
    • a2zeee75

      As a Christian I have many friends of all different beliefs including atheists. While I do not agree with them I do not shun them or demean them for their for views. As I respect their beliefs I expect the same treatment in return. I love the fact that you can so easily make such blanket comments for the majority of Christians. "Based on the comments by religious people in this blog you would conclude that religious people prefer ignorance over education". You are being just as closed minded and ignorant to believe all religious people are like this. You obviously feel strongly about the comments Fox made but your response is just as inflammatory as hers. While there have been and continue to be horrible things said and done in the name of religion you are being just as ignorant as the group you seem to know so well.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:36 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.