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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. Scot

    Why do we care about what SHE says ? She is only one person on a fake news program that no intelligent person would listen to !

    September 10, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
  2. John Brennan

    Historically, the phrase "Under God" is un-American and doesn't belong in the Pledge. I don't say it. Asking children to say it in school is absolutely as offensive as the phrase "Under Allah," "Under Zeus," "Under Jesus" or "Under Satan" would be. If you wouldn't want your kids saying any of those, don't ask my kids to say your silly prayer. If your religion cannot survive without all children being forced to recite this prayer, then my Darwinism dictates that your religion be naturally selected for extinction.

    September 10, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • ricco

      john, i have been a christian for 4o years, but i have to say, your response was very good. I have to agree.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
  3. Ed F.

    My family has been here since 1848 and I am a proud atheist.

    Maybe you should move to Iran where you can have religion rule your life.

    September 10, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
  4. lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

    A&A's are so simpleminded and blinded by their antichrist hate. They'll corrupt any gubmint and give it godlike powers. All Hail to the Diverse Beast!!

    September 10, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      you're not very good at being a troll are you?

      September 10, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • denver

      It's funny that you guys can't even understand that there are people who simply don't believe at all. The contortions you have to go through to cast all atheists as people who just hate god- but believe in him anyway!- must hurt your back.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
  5. kd

    Yeah, nothing says 'Merica' like shoving religion down your throat. And these far right nutcake Christians think they're different from other religious extremists. Hardly.

    And Perino is a joke, as are all of those Fox propagandists.

    September 10, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • Samuel

      Or shoving forced patriotism down your throat. Why are we even having kids say the pledge every day? It's kind of strange, when you think about it.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
      • Thor

        You have never spent time under oppressive rule. Why are you even alive?

        September 10, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
        • Samuel

          Huh?

          September 10, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
  6. B2UX

    IT WAS NEVER MENT TO BE THERE IT WAS A GOVERMENT PLOY THAT PUT IT THERE TAKE IT OUT.. IT IS NOT WW2 NOR ARE THE COMMIES KNOCKING AT OUR DOOR WHICH WAS THE REASON IT WAS PUT THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE ..
    OUR FOUNDING FATHERS DID NOT WANT IT THERE OR THEY WOULD HAVE WRITTEN IT IN THEY DID NOT ....
    REMOVE IT.....

    September 10, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      The Pledge was written in 1892 or so. Pretty sure all the founding fathers were past writing at that point.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
  7. Doris

    In the U.S., we have freedom of religion. We also, to a degree, have freedom FROM religion by way of the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment. That's the part that is supposed to keep people from stepping on each others' toes – as in trying to legislate from religion or allowing a particular religion to be seen as representing part of the government or its extensions.

    James Madison, chief architect of the Constitution and most of the initial Amendments was quite clear in his opinion that government and religion were both best served if they remained completely separate:

    "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."

    (from letters to Edward Livingston and Robert Walsh)

    During his presidency he vetoed two bills on the grounds of religious freedom. If you check his notes at the Library of Congress, you will learn that he came to oppose the customary use of government funds to pay for chaplains for the Congress.

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

      Did you know the founding fathers had church service in the capitol building for over 100 years ? You would think that they above all people would know what separation of church and state meant ?

      September 10, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
  8. NorthVanCan

    Funny how religious people cant understand freedom from religion and why it's important .
    They simply cant get it.

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

      who brought the suit in the first place, born from intolerance. Kids are not forced to say the pledge. But you WANT to force kids to not be allowed to show their beliefs. All this while in other states muslim childred are given government clearance to have prayer time.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
      • sam

        You missed the point. Keep flinging hyperbole, though, it's fun to watch.

        September 10, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
      • cedar rapids

        'But you WANT to force kids to not be allowed to show their beliefs.'

        But they shouldnt be showing their beliefs in the pledge, it has no place in the pledge to the flag.
        No one is telling them to claim there is no god or anything but putting god in there is forcing kids to make a choice as to stay silent during it.

        September 10, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • NanookoftheNorth

      Funny how atheists are going to hell anyway...they just don't get it :-/

      September 10, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
      • sam

        It's a good thing there's no such place, then.

        September 10, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
  9. Mr. Flibble

    Christians are just as crazy as Muslims.

    September 10, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
  10. bob123666

    1 word describes dana and these folks...idiot. I have nothing more to say.

    September 10, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
  11. Thor

    I worship more than one god, so, which of them is the "Pledge of Allegiance" affirming that I swear before?

    September 10, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      That is your individual perogative

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

      Does it really matter ?

      September 10, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
  12. Steven Colo

    What part of "freedom of religion" does she not comprehend?

    September 10, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • denver

      The part that is in conflict with her personal belief, of course!

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

      Freedom of religion is different than freedom from religion. If one person wants to say "under God" and another doesn't, then say it or don't say it; that's the freedom we have.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
  13. A Dose of Reality

    Faith that could stand up to any form of reason is long gone. Our knowledge of the world from 2000 years ago to what we now know about the world has irrevocably changed the need for religion. We do not need God to explain things; and religion becomes obsolete as an explanation when it becomes optional or one among many different beliefs. We now see that the leap of faith is not just one leap; it is a leap repeatedly made, and a leap that becomes more difficult to take the more it is taken, reaching its pinnacle in blind allegiance and active denial and rejection of any other possibilities. At that point, the credibility of the faithful is entirely lost.

    September 10, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • Newtonslaw

      Well said, but don't expect the "faithful" to jump ship when faced with actual facts. Read "The Cave" in Plato's The Republic.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
  14. McLarnan

    I don't understand why it really matters. How egotistical can we really get as a nation? To honestly tell ourselves America is "God's country" ...if "God" truly is the creator of the entire universe, what makes you think he cares about the people on THIS tiny chunk of land on THIS planet, compared to all his other creations? Look around, if anything, I'd guess we were his least favorite, we're disgusting.

    September 10, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
    • A Dose of Reality

      Oh man, that's perfect!

      September 10, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • Epidi

      I've always considered our Earth to be the insane asylum in this sector of the universe.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • catocony

      It's from the same people who think that, out of the whole world of races and cultures, only a single small band of people in a desert got his approval and are graced in what they do. Then some people not from that single small band started listening to the speeches of one who was, and formed a religion from those speeches.

      With that outlook, it's really easy to believe that god is on your side, and no one else's. After all, that's what makes you special, right?

      September 10, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
  15. joe anonymous

    More ignorant comments from Faux News. "Under God" wasn't even added to the pledge until 1948. Over 150 years of not saying "Under God" is somehow invalidated by the fact that only 60 years ago it was added.

    September 10, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
    • Epidi

      I know right? Why do people have such strong opinions about something they obviously haven't researched enough to have a valid input to? Go back to the way it was – in its pure form – the way it was meant to be recited.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      That would mean the pledge was written 150 years before it was changed, in 1798 or before. The Minister who wrote it was not alive yet at that point.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
  16. Samuel

    Why in the world are we still having schoolchildren mechanically recite the pledge every day, anyway? Have you heard them say it? They have no clue what they are even saying, and the way it's said you'd have a hard time figuring it out. Time to drop forced patriotism.

    September 10, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
    • lerianis

      Agreed. I refused to stand and do the pledge in school and when the teachers tried to punish me, I referred them to my parents who threatened a lawsuit if they tried to force me to stand and do the pledge again.

      I put it bluntly to people who asked me why I did that: Loyalty to country, not to the government that the pledge enshrines.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
      • Bill Deacon

        That's your rationale as an adult for why you did it because it makes you sound heroic. But when you were a bratty kid, you did it because you knew mommy and daddy would sue anybody who tried to make you behave.

        September 10, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          And there's Bill who we can always count on to assume motives and pass judgment. You're so much like your god, you disgust me.

          September 10, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
        • Bill Deacon

          Perceive and assume are not the same Cpt. Thanks though

          September 10, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • Thor

      You see, Samuel, we Americans don't want people here in America who won't pledge allegiance to us, because we don't want you to kill us or take over our system of government. If you have a problem with that, then you must fertilize the tree of freedom, but don't expect too many takers on that: people are still running across deserts and driving their '57 Chevy boats from Mexico and Cuba, in extremely dangerous conditions to get here. Maybe you should ask some of them why allegiance is important?

      September 10, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
      • Samuel

        Who's making the pledge? Schoolchildren, you dolt. You think they're thinking patriotic thoughts while they're reciting the same thing in the same robotic way every day?

        September 10, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        Immigrants just aren't that concerned about allegiance to government. If allegiance did matter, they would not have left their own country to come here. The nation was founded on the principle that sometimes people must take up arms against their oppressors, even if the oppressor is the government of those people. Forcing demonstrations of allegiance goes against the principle upon which this country was founded. It should be outlawed.

        September 10, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
      • Philip

        Immigrants come here for opportunities they don't have in their home countries, not because they feel any particular allegiance to our flag. Most probably still hold allegiance to their home countries, and any forced pledge would not change that.

        September 10, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • Epidi

      Math was taught by rote when I went to school & I didn't get it until a teacher taught me to THINK thru it. Perhaps kids should be made to write an essay on what the pledge, or any pledge for that matter, means.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
  17. NorthVanCan

    The information revolution is speeding up the death of religious nonsense .
    That's for sure.
    and not a minute too soon .

    September 10, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
  18. Luna

    does this people have better things to do...why not use all your time in helping others like abuse children..homeless shelters..shelter for battered women...spend your money and time to help people...so if the the "under God" is removed then what? what did you achieve? can this help our country? geezzzz...too much wasted time and effort....

    September 10, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
    • Unegen

      Says the person wasting time complaining on a CNN forum. Exactly what did your whine accomplish? How many battered women or starving children did you help? Don't you have anything better to do?

      Yeah. You do. So go do it.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
      • Luna

        Yes...i did....i read to keep inform of things around me...how about you what did you accomplish to help your fellowman?

        September 10, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      How about before you whine again you learn to form a coherent sentence?

      September 10, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
  19. DigDug2k

    When I was in college we had a bunch of 3rd graders come by one day and perform some skit, including the pledge. The German next to me was in shock that we'd make kids do something so... indoctrinating. i.e. the exact type of stuff they've fought to remove from their culture since it led to WWII. I'd never really thought about it till then, but it is crazy. 6 year olds reciting together a pledge of complete allegiance to their country with no idea what they're saying or what it means, let alone the mental capacity to actually make such a statement.

    I'm atheist, and would be happy to see the "in God" part of this die, but I think they'd be much more likely to win this argument if they fought to just remove the pledge entirely.

    September 10, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
    • Hear This

      Yes, attached to the original Pledge was the "Bellamy Salute". You'll cringe when you see it:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bellamy_salute

      September 10, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      That's why so many American college students are trying to be admitted to German universities. Oh wait...nvm

      September 10, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
  20. A Dose of Reality

    "I will guess that you feel that the concept of God (we'll go with the Judeo-Christian God in this case) was created by a human. Please prove that with evidence." At one level, just another way of saying "prove god does not exist", which, as I think we all agree, is like saying, "prove leprechauns don't exist." It is very easy to show how the Judeo Christian god is an invention of man, though.1. Only in late Bronze Age Palestine had anybody heard of this god. The millions of people living elsewhere in the World had never heard of it. All of the people living in China, Eaurope, Africa, India, the Australian Aboriginals had never heard of it until humans from Palestine gradually moved out and "spread the word". Does it really make sense that a being would create the an all-knowing, all-powerful, immortal being created the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies 13,720,000,000 years ago (the age of the Universe) sat back and waited 10,000,000,000 years for the Earth to form, then waited another 3,720,000,000 years for human beings to gradually evolve, then, at some point gave them eternal life and sent its son to Earth to talk about sheep and goats in the Middle East. While here, this divine visitor exhibits no knowledge of ANYTHING outside of the Iron Age Middle East, including the other continents, 99% of the human race, and the aforementioned galaxies. Second, does it not appear to you a little silly that, of all the countless millions of people, this god would make the Jews its "chosen race" and obsess with giving them a host of rules, most relevant only to farmingcommunities. Hmmm, did god creat the Jewish farmers or did the Jewish farmers create God....Next, the stories of Christianity are not even original. They are borrowed directly from earlier mythology from the Middle East. Genesis and Exodus, for example, are clearly based on earlier Babylonian myths such as The Epic of Gilgamesh, and the Jesus story itself is straight from the stories about Apollonius of Tyana, Ho.rus and Dionysus (including virgin birth, the three wise men, the star in the East, birth at the Winter solstice, a baptism by another prophet, turning water into wine, crucifixion and rising from the dead). Next, the Bible is also literally infested with contradictions, outdated morality, and open support for the most barbarous acts of cruelty – including, genocide, murder, slavery, r.ape and the complete subjugation of women. All of this is due to when and where it was written, the morality of the times and the motives of its authors and compilers. While this may be exculpatory from a literary point of view, it also screams out the fact that it is a pure product of man, bereft of any divine inspiration.By the way, we have no idea of who wrote the four Gospels, how credible or trustworthy they were, what ulterior motives they had (other than to promote their religion) or what they based their views on. We know that the traditional story of it being Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is almost certainly wrong. For example, the Gospel of Matthew includes a scene in which Jesus meets Matthew, recounted entirely in the third person!! Nevertheless, we are called upon to accept the most extraordinary claims by these unknown people, who wrote between 35 to 65 years after Christ died and do not even claim to have been witnesses. It is like taking the word of an unknown Branch Davidian about what happened to David Koresh at Waco – who wrote 35 years after the fact and wasn’t there.When backed into a corner, Judeo-Christianity admits it requires a “leap of faith” to believe it. However, once one accepts that pure faith is a legitimate reason to believe in something (which it most certainly is not, any more than “faith” that pixies exist is) one has to accept all other gods based on exactly the same reasoning. One cannot be a Christian based on the “leap of faith” – and then turn around and say those who believe in, for example, the Hindu gods, based on the same leap, got it wrong. In a dark room without features, any guess by a blind man at the direction of the door is as valid as the other 359 degrees. Geography and birthplace dictates what god(s) one believes in. Every culture that has ever existed has had its own gods and they all seem to favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams, and prejudices. Do you think they all exist? If not, why only yours? No, Kalessein, faith is not even belief in a god. It is a mere hope for a god, a wish for a god, no more substantial than the hope for a good future and no more substantial that the "hope for a good future" and no more universal universal than the language you speak or the baseball team you support. We are a frightened little species and we need to avoid the inevitablility of death. We create our gods to do just that and to explain those parts of nature we cannot explain or control. Fortunately, the penetrating light of science and knowledge has flushed this "god of the gaps" out of his hiding place. He is now forced to inhabit those few remaining dark patches science has not yet fully exposed. The origins of life is one, the uncritical mind of the believer is another.Either that, or it all started 6,000 years ago with one man, one woman and a talking snake. Either way “oh come on” just doesn’t quite capture it.

    September 10, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
    • jrmullowney

      I stopped reading at "I will guess".

      September 10, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • Jumpin' Jupiter

      A Dose of Reality,

      1. Break this thing up into eye-saving paragraphs.
      2. Give credit to the author.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.