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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. mom2homer

    What the pledge teaches kids is that grown-ups think rote memorization will make you believe in something (whether that something is patriotism or God). From this, kids extrapolate that adults aren't too bright and that authority should be questioned. At least, that's what it taught me. As an adult, I still don't recite the pledge, because I don't think reciting something with a bunch of other people makes that something true. Instead of teaching my kid not to say the "under God" part, I'd encourage him to understand why the demands to recite the pledge in the first place are suspect.

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

      It comes from a different age, when loyalty pledges were seen as reasonable. Like the concept of marriage and the idea Catholics have about eating part of Christ's body, it is a ritual that provides comfort for those who believe it. To outsiders it seems quite silly, but to the faithful it holds power.

      The Pledge of Allegiance also serves a secondary purpose. During the moments that the pledge is being recited, I became aware that everyone in my school was focused on the exact same task (well, nearly everyone). It was a visceral lesson that it is possible to get a vast number of people working together for an actual common goal. It promotes the beneficial illusion of unity in a common cause, a belief that some things transcend personal desires.

      The actual pledge is silly. The words mean nothing by themselves, but if they inspire a pride in our country or a belief in something greater than our own selves, then the pledge – with or without any specific phrase – has value.

      September 10, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
  2. farris

    Dana Perino and anyone, athiest or believer, who says someone else, "doesn't have to live here," if they don't like something, should automatically leave themselves. After all aren't people who say someone else should, "leave" just saying those people who believe differently than the issuer of the statement should somehow be *forced* to leave if they do not like something, actually open to their own suggestion? And, shouldn't the issuer of the statement be the one who does the leaving? The choice to "leave" or "stay" is the individual's choice, not Dana Perino's for someone other than Dana Perino. The only say Dana Perino has is if *she* leaves or not!

    September 10, 2013 at 11:34 am |
  3. Rich

    Leave god alone! Unless it's Allah, then scream about Sharia law encroaching on our rights! Pathetic.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:34 am |
  4. Southern Patriot

    Last time I checked, freedom of speech applies to ALL, not just to elitist liberals. Especially the narcissistic Occupier of the White House.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:34 am |
    • Atheist Bob

      Are you really as stupid as you sound? Moron . . .

      September 10, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • EAT MOR CHKN

      CHIK FIL-A IS STILL OPEN, QUICK GIT YOU SUM CHKN

      September 10, 2013 at 11:43 am |
  5. Michael Stegeman

    Ms. Perino needs to check her history (even though Fox discourages fact checking). The 'Under God" phrase was added in the 1950's aas par of a strange post war convergence of religios zealots. Look to the founding fathers to see freedom of religion means ALL religions, not just yours or Christianity. The FF's insisted on keeping ALL religions out of government.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:34 am |
  6. MJ

    We should agree with Dana Perino that atheists shouldn't live in the US. We should have kicked Einstein out of the country years ago. Sounds like a good idea.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:33 am |
  7. Joe Rockbottom

    It was predictable that the Supreme Court, led by an ultra right wing fundamentalist christian, and back up by four more ultra right wing christian fundamentalists, would uphold the "under god" phrase. They simply are too ignorant and brain washed to do the right thing and make the pledge represent ALL Americans, not just ultra right wing fundamentalist "religious" Americans.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • Southern Patriot

      Another "intelligent" from a liberal lemming crawling out from under a rock..

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

      Absolutely agreed. The Supreme Court made the wrong ruling in this case. NO references to religion in government or when people are doing their jobs for the government are acceptable.
      None.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:36 am |
    • Sailor101

      I am not a Christian but you know what I have absolutly NO problem saying "Under God" as part of the pledge. I have yet to melt after saying it! I do realize that this country was founded upno Christian Ethics/Principles and the phrase does not hurt anyone, it does not belittle anyone, it does not infringe on anyone. It is what you make it and if a person decides to get thier panties in a twist then they have bigger issues to deal with.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:58 am |
      • G to the T

        And that's fine Sailor. If you don't believe that principles are important, no one is forcing you to fight for them.

        September 12, 2013 at 11:58 am |
  8. Ved

    I'm not religious, and don't believe in some god overseeing or controlling us, but at the same time, I wouldn't go out of my way to fight against removing this phrase. I merely regard it as a silly historical relic that many people happen to still believe. It does me no harm, and if it makes them feel good, hey, why not? But then again, I've also failed to understand the big deal with saying "Merry Christmas" or putting up Christmas trees. I guess Jews feel marginalized, and I suppose the atheists feel the same way, but to be perfectly frank, it's really much ado about nothing.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • Sailor101

      Great comment. I agree 100%

      September 10, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
  9. TTootle

    To Johnny 5. you're argument just confuses the issue. I believe "Under God" should be removed from the pledge because having it there asserts only ONE belief, albeit one held by many Americans, therefore it's insertion there misrepresents whole other groups of patriotic Americans. I am a Christian and faith is what "proves" the existence of God. Whether or not God's existence can be "proven" makes no difference as to whether a reference to God belongs in the Pledge.

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

      'Faith' is what gets idiots to jump off cliffs thinking that they will sprout wings and fly. NO ONE should have 'faith' in anything except what can be scientifically proven. Hate to tell you, but your imaginary and non-existent 'god' cannot be proven through science and never will be able to be proven through science.
      Therefore: DOES NOT EXIST IN THE REAL WORLD!

      September 10, 2013 at 11:38 am |
  10. GaryOwen27

    MCarthyism, just another plague brought on by the Red Neck Right.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:33 am |
  11. PikeRover

    As I recall "Under God" was added in the mid 50's as a rebuke to the "Godless Commies"

    September 10, 2013 at 11:33 am |
  12. Joe Smith

    If you want another example of how off the rails fox is.....check out their headline story today about arctic ice....

    then check out the reality, from which their entirely misleading "reporting" is based

    http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

    September 10, 2013 at 11:32 am |
  13. Deac

    I agree with her... Get the F out!

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

      "Get the F out!" You sound like a very loving and forgiving Christ follower....

      September 10, 2013 at 11:36 am |
  14. Southern Patriot

    You ROCK Dana! Secularists LOVE to try to rewrite history that says this nation was built on Judeo-Christian values and by those seeking religious freedom. Tell them to go live in North Korea if they want. This administration wants to make IT your god America!

    September 10, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Yep – those early settlers sure were perfect examples of Christianity.
      Just look at how they cared for the indiginous people.
      Beware of white men bearing blankets.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:35 am |
      • Southern Patriot

        You mean the "native Americans" who ALSO migrated? Funny how they can be native...and how they WARRED against each other? Sorry to burst your koombayah moment.

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

      The founding fathers were deist. But of course an actual 'patriot' would know the history of his own country....right?

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

      "Under God" was added in the mid 50's as a rebuke to the "Godless Commies" It never was in the original.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:36 am |
      • Joe Smith

        and some real irony....the Pledge was written by a minister who did not think God belonged in it, and that minister was an avowed socialist.

        http://oldtimeislands.org/pledge/

        If he were to write it today the fox newsies would reject it out of hand coming from a socialist......

        September 10, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • Larry L

      Do you really need a listing of our Founding Fathers who did not support a religious state? The list goes like Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Payne... The people who are attempting to revise history are the Evangelical Christians or as more commonly known, the American Taliban. Freedom means freedon of and from religion.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:36 am |
      • Southern Patriot

        Freedom OF religion as you seem to forget.

        September 10, 2013 at 11:38 am |
        • Larry L

          Read more carefully.

          September 10, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • Joe Smith

      Apparently you have not studied American history. The only place that religious freedom was allowed in early colonial America was Rhode Island and the Quaker states. And Jews - since you call it Judeo Christian - Jews were thrown out of places like MA, and were only tolerated in few places like RI, PA and NY. The primary motivation for most early English settlement in the Americans was done by folks looking to make money. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

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

      (North Korea is not fond of christians, moron, so feel free to visit there yourself)

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

      You, as does Ms. Perino, needs a history lesson. The words "under God" were added to the pledge in 1954.

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

      "[T]he Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion[.]" Treaty of Tripoli, 1797, signed by Founding Father/President John Adams.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:46 am |
      • a reasonable atheist

        It was also unanimously approved by the US Senate of the time, which included Jefferson and Old Hickory.

        September 10, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
  15. The Truth

    F- her. We are EVERYWHERE and she can get the F out anytime as well.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:29 am |
    • Southern Patriot

      Wow THAT was so intelligent! ROTFLMAO

      September 10, 2013 at 11:33 am |
  16. Lionly Lamb

    Shall we U.S. Americans someday pledge our allegiances to the Quran..?

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

    September 10, 2013 at 11:29 am |
    • Joe Smith

      You are an idiot. Nothing more to say about that.

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

      Roughly 5 million Muslims in the U.S.

      Roughly 295 million non-Muslims.

      Yep. It's time for you to get panicky.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:37 am |
  17. ScottCA

    The Fox host should be fired for a comment like that.

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

      No, on Fox if you say something that is repulsive and insults the dreams of the founding fathers... AND it happens to upset liberals, then you are given a promotion.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:32 am |
  18. Truth

    Christophobia, pure and simple.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:28 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Why would anyone have fear of a guy that died 2000 years ago.
      You just made that up, and it is not true.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • Southern Patriot

      AMEN. They are afraid of the Truth.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:32 am |
      • Jesus Was Gay

        It's funny because the truth is that you worship a dead carpenter.

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

          Psalm 14:1 – "The fool sayeth in his heart, there is no God"...

          September 10, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • Bo

      Wow – looks like many of our founders suffered from that as well.

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

      Yeah – that's the lamest argument in the book – that non-believers are somehow afraid of what they don't believe in. It's not just lame, it's stupid.

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

        If you're not afraid, then why are you constantly crying about it?

        September 10, 2013 at 11:36 am |
        • Jesus Was Gay

          Awww, little Jesus guy is getting all worked up again. How cute 🙂 Better go pray to your dead carpenter some more to strike down all these evil people! LOL PWNED ZOMG

          September 10, 2013 at 11:44 am |
        • AtheistFools

          If Jesus was gay, he would have been loved by atheist. Your assumptions have failed you.

          September 10, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • sam

      Yeah, gotta check under my bed every night for that creepy guy.

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

        I'm still surprised that you haven't post under my name or other people names yet Sam. You've been doing just that for the past 6 months when you don't like being cornered.

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

          Are you going to post the same nonsense bullshit over and over because your OCD demands it?

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

          What happened? You don't like being told the truth?

          September 10, 2013 at 11:52 am |
  19. Josh

    We could flip their statement around, and point out that conservatives don't have to live here.

    September 10, 2013 at 11:27 am |
    • Southern Patriot

      And no one would say a word. HYPOCRITES!

      September 10, 2013 at 11:32 am |
      • G to the T

        BS and you know it. Stop trying to use the extremists to define the whole.

        I want religious liberty for EVERYONE, even for you SP. The bigger question is, why don't you?

        September 11, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
    • Edwin

      The cool thing about being a conservative is that you feel you have a God-given right to live here... so they won't get upset. They will just think you never read the part of the Bible that says that Christians are suppose to live in America.

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

      But conservative aren't unhappy with how the law currently is. So..... why would they leave? Using your argument of course.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • Goose66

      You could, but then your spin would be just as petty and simple. The bigger issue is that Christians and other religious folks feel frustration over these Atheists groups that are constantly railing against all religious aspects of American culture. As a non-religious person, I have to agree and feel their frustration as well. It begs the question "to what end?" Why do Atheists feel like "under God" in the pledge or a nativity scene in the public square violates their rights? I would think Atheists would be among the "enlightened" and would have better things to do with their time than constantly challenge such cultural norms that are appreciated by the majority of the population of the Country. Being an atheist is fine - you have every right to be here - but why the rabid desire to tear down religion? Doesn't that make you no better than the religious right that want to push their religious values on everyone?

      September 10, 2013 at 11:39 am |
  20. Kevin

    Dana Perino can go to h3ll. I won't, ever, because hell doesn't exist, but I'd make one up for her for trying to push her hypocritical "values" on us...

    September 10, 2013 at 11:27 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.