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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. Dyslexic doG

    let's just change the Pledge of Allegiance back to the way the Founding Fathers wrote it, before it was corrupted by religious zealots.

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

      The "founding fathers" wrote the pledge?

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

      The "Pledge of Allegiance" was written by a Socialist and was then used to sell flags to schools, it is not heritage or history, it is a marketing gimmick that was very successful. The "under god" portion was added during the Cold War, ironically enough, to remind people that Communists are godless, and it was adopted by your grandfathers, not your forefathers. Not only is the "under god" portion of a pledge that we require children to make offensive to anyone who does not believe in god, and therefor a violation of the separation between church and state; the entire pledge itself is an archaic throw back to a more ignorant and fearful time, so why don't we just do away with the whole stupid thing, considering that true loyalty and patriotism comes from a more meaningful place inside us than a mandatory pledge that children drone through every day of elementary school.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
  2. Ed Kidwell

    " one nation,indivisible,with liberty and justice for all" That covered it all and should have been left alone. It is NONE of these things today.

    September 10, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

      US Senators are elected by wemen and da mob. The state gubmints have no representation, thanks to da pwogwessive socies. It's all top down bullyin' now. All Hail to the Sodominian Mob!!

      September 10, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
  3. Please Take Heed

    " 'As surely as I live.' says the Lord, 'every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.'" Romans 14:11 NIV

    September 10, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      how does quoting a line from a bronze age story book prove anything?

      let me try with a more current book ...

      It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.
      – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

      hey look everybody, I proved a point! (I'm so awesome!)

      September 10, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
      • Thor

        Well said sir.

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

        Thank you!

        September 10, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
      • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

        Why not quote a song? "I wish I were an Oscar Meyer wiener"

        So there!!!!!

        September 10, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
      • flying spaghetti monster

        And Lo! Dumbledore stood in the tower, and before him was Draco, child of the most nefarious death eater. And verily did Draco lift his wand, and shout 'Expelliarmus!" And Dumbledore's wand was cast from him; and Harry stood by, inscrutable behind his cloak of invisibility, frozen and unable to reach out his hand to he whom he had loved as a father.

        And then it was that Dumbledore turned the other cheek to Draco, and offered him forgiveness; and though Draco's heart was hardened by the evil of the dark one, he-who-must-not-be-named, he was not beyond the grace of Dumbledore.

        But it was in that moment that the death-eaters entered into the tower. And Severus Snape, the most despised, did cast out his wand, crying "Avada Kedavra!" And Dumbledore was smitten from the tower, and fell to the earth below, never to rise again.

        .... ^ A story from a much, much better book than the bibble

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

      And yet, a large percentage of the world does not bend knee to this particular deity. Sounds like epic FAIL to me.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
  4. tott

    Chew on this! Under a true democracy, the majority rules. 79% of the US population is Christian, 5% other religion and 16% is unaffiliated. Atheist being less that 2%. According to these numbers, the vast majority believes in "God". So we vote to keep "God" in the pledge. Don't like it.....find a country that believes what you believe in and go be happy.

    September 10, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • jeff

      Too bad USA is NOT a democracy, it is a republic. Your personal vote does NOT elect the president. The electoral college votes in the president, and they do NOT have to vote the popular vote. AKA your vote is meaningless. Majority does NOT rule.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      no, that's called a theocracy you tool!

      September 10, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • brian

      The issue is the 79% are not one denomination. Denominations tend to vote to kill each other for not being the correct faith when they become part of the government. ( Constantine for example executed all the gnostics and other varied versions of christianity, we only have the version he endorsed now )

      September 10, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • Futureman2

      Chew on This.. as late as 1960 the majority of white Christians in the southern United States still supported the belief that people of color were inferior. The point; The majority can be wrong. Its up to the intelligent among us to drag you into the 21st century..

      September 10, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
  5. Parvo

    She is right.

    September 10, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • Doris

      Yes she is way on the right.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
  6. Hatefulhappy

    When will these people realize that all the religious undertones in the Pledge of Allegiance and on coins etc is all a product of the 19302 -1950s. It asnt on there since the pledge was written. It has been amended over the years by religious zealots in offive who think its their duty to make America a religious nation. Which totally goes against the first amendment, all together. The original pledge went like this. "I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." 1882. It was changed 4 times but "under god' wasnt even added until 1954. The christian right is no better than the muslim fundies. Ignorant.

    September 10, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • Sailor101

      Or chould you change that to read "the Christian Right is no better than the Aethiest Left"?

      September 10, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
      • Hatefulhappy

        LOL. Please. How? Give me an example. Both the muzlims and the fudie christians use bronze age theocracy and fables to try and subdue people into following their way of life. I fail to see how atheists do any sort of thing. At least atheists have a malleable view of exiistence and are able to adapt and adjust to the ever changing world we live in. Religious fundementalists usually just force their will on people or just kill them if they start losing their grip on power. There are many examples throughout history of this and I am sure you are well aware of them.

        September 10, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
      • Hatefulhappy

        I am a republican btw. As in I want a small government and less money wasted on nonsense programs. Our party has been hikacked.

        September 10, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
  7. MODU

    The Pledge is taught in school so kids will learn it. It's not indoctrination into blind submission to our Country, and they are not beaten for not saying it. They are graded on it to make sure they know it, however. Many school districts (the few that still require the Pledge to be said at some point in the school week) have given children the option to not say the Pledge and/or the words "Under God" (just remain quiet during those two words) if their parents are against it. So this is really a non-issue to start with, and people primarily bring it up in Court cases as a means to gain attention.

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

      Imagine how must less of an issue it would be if that line were removed though. No special instructions for those who might object, etc. So much simpler just to restore it to the original version.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • Religion is NOT healthy for children and other living things

      Replace the word "God" with "Allah" and then tell us how it is a "non-issue"!

      September 10, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
  8. Free Thinker

    I find it truly unbelievable that these are the people who think they know what the Forefathers wanted, yet completely dismiss the 'separation of church and state'. It wasn't until 1956 that In God We Trust was put on our money. And it wasn't until 1948 that God entered out pledge. These people have hijacked our countries most precious ideas of equality and freedom from all religion.

    I cannot tell you how happy I am that I see the decline of Christianity and their small-minded ideas.

    September 10, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
  9. Calcommuter

    Years ago in grade school, you could sit down if you did not choose to do the Pledge. Or, if you objected to the "under god" phrase, you just dont say it. As for Ms. Perino, I learned all I needed when we found out she worked for Skippy Bush.

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

      Sorry Calcommuter.... when I went to school, it was never an option. The other kids would beat up the one who didn't recite the pledge... or they might get sent home to get their butts whipped. But... more importantly..... is this the Baptist God or the Satan God that we are pledging too? Maybe it is the Mormon God or the Catholic God? Which is it?

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

        Apparently it was a difference in our school systems. Mine was forgiving on others beliefs and nationalities, while yours..

        September 10, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
  10. David

    The Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy (1855–1931), who was a Baptist minister, a Christian socialist, and the cousin of socialist utopian novelist Edward Bellamy (1850–1898).
    Bellamy's original Pledge read as follows:

    I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

    At a meeting on February 12, 1948,Lincoln's Birthday, Louis A. Bowman, an attorney from Illinois led the Illinois Society of the Sons of the American Revolution in swearing the Pledge with two words added, "under God."

    So the Pledge should be read the way it was initially written, by the socialist.

    September 10, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
  11. sparky

    I suppose that people who don't like gay marriage, Roe v. Wade, or a black president don't have to live here, either.

    September 10, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
  12. A traveler

    "One nation, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All." Pretty much sums it up without needing fairy-tale word additions.

    September 10, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
  13. Dr. Peter MacGregor

    As a clinical psychologist, I can state with certainty that pretty much ALL patients I've seen with the worst issues are atheists. Atheists also have a far higher occurrence of issues ranging from low self esteem all the way to substance abuse.

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

      And when they go off the deep end, they say it's because God told them to do something awful.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • denver

      That's great, Doc. Why do you suppose that is? Could it be a response to a world in which they're constantly looked down upon by smug believers? Perhaps the daddy-by-proxy that believers find in god helps them ignore the bleak details of their life? Perhaps the pressure to be good for its own sake and decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong is mentally taxing?

      Lay it on us!

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

      quack quack

      September 10, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • flying spaghetti monster

      As a clinical psychiatrist, I can tell you that you are wrong. All of the most heinously disturbed individuals I have ever come across were devout, fanatical xtians.

      ... see how easy it is to just claim to be a dr. on the internets?

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

      LOL
      An anonymous "Dr" on the Internet has declared something! We must all change our minds now!

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

      LOL? Very professional, "doctor" Is that one of the first things you question your patients on? Their religious beliefs? Realizing there is no afterlife or any fairy tale lands after death is traumatizing for a lot of people when they realize their religion lied to them THEIR ENTIRE LIVES. Dont you think thats a bit depressing and sick? Lying to children to indoctrinate them? Thats pretty low.

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

      Now why don't I believe you?

      September 10, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • heehee

      You seem unbiased, and I bet you'd make a great counselor. Also, your dedication to anecdotal evidence means I can trust your opinions.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
  14. RJSmith

    How about this....don't like the words "under God" in the pledge DON'T SAY THEM!!!!

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

      Or, you know, even simpler, we could just remove that phrase and restore the pledge back to how it was originally. Presto! Problem solved!

      September 10, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • budshot

      Your way or the highway, huh?

      September 10, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
  15. sonny chapman

    Perino is the one who is "Un American". The Founding Fathers knew the dangers of Religious zealotry. Perino should move to one of the many Islamic States throughout the world if she can't tolerate a fellow citizens' Religious Beliefs.

    September 10, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • Clarence Alexander

      She was just saying like so many who use that cliché, "Well, if you don't like move somewhere else." It isn't meant to be taken seriously! But folks often respond to over the top remarks with this cliché. Get a grip, folks!

      CNN has made a story out of something that is not!

      September 10, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
  16. CommieAnarchist

    I do not know which is a bigger lie, god or the pledge, abolish both.

    September 10, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
  17. Ed Kidwell

    Believe or ELSE. I am posting this again as they refused to post my last.Must be against CNN policy to disagree with them.I refuse to knuckle under to the plate passing parasites who would rule us all. Bad men using God.............clear and simple. This started in 1954 when the religious zealots decided to take steps to control everyone. Has nothing to do with anything else.

    September 10, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • Ben Gozzey

      How about that atheistic Benghazi fiasco? Yea man, and the IRS atheistic fiasco? One nation under the bus with liberty and justice for all. How's that for a new line?

      September 10, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
  18. zpex

    When I was a kid, we had 2 Jehovah Witnesses kids in our school. I specifically remember the fact that they never stood for the Pledge of Allegiance. Although we found it odd at first, nobody picked on them for their religious beliefs. If you don't want to Pledge Allegiance to the flag or say Under God when reciting the pledge, then simply do not say it. Most people will never know. But while you may not believe and choose to practice religion, many people do, and they not only have the right to say it, protect it, and believe it; they do not deserve to be made fun of for it, as many posters on here are doing. Personally, I believe religion is a very personal choice and personal relationship you have with God. If you do not believe in God, then that is your right and I respect it. All I ask is you respect my right to believe there is a God without ridiculing me for it.

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

      Or, you know, even simpler, we could just remove that phrase and restore the pledge back to how it was originally. Then everyone can happily agree with it!

      September 10, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
      • Clarence Alexander

        I agree. Restore the pledge and take "god" off the money. I would also advocate for NO prayers before starting meetings that are funded with any kind of tax dollars! For some reason, people who are religious are perfectly happy with that practice. I find it offensive for those who are not religious, not to mention the "separation" issue

        September 10, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • Religion is NOT healthy for children and other living things

      Which is PRECISELY why it should be REMOVED! DUH!

      September 10, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
  19. NorthVanCan

    Afganistan is completely religious.
    Sweden....not so much.
    Do we really need more proof that religion is old hat.?

    September 10, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
  20. spiderlord

    My favorite intellectuals are all Atheists, but I have no respect for members of the movement who insist on reaching for their vapors and demanding that any public expression of religion be removed from their sight. We would do will to remember that it was not so long ago that people reacted the same way to any public expression of Atheism, and silenced us by calling us intolerant.

    In a state comprised of people with many views, there is no such thing as a "tolerant" position that can be achieved by banning the expression of ideas, as any position will carry with it the affirmation of one view to the exclusion of others. The only way to resolve this contradiction of opinions within the public sphere through removal of expressions is by bringing the violence of the state to bear on all but one system of belief. This is not a call for tolerance, but rather the demand for absolute intolerance and suppression of all other belief systems. Those who call for this, like Mr. Silverman, are not interested in tolerance; they are interested in power.

    In the United States, 85% of the population is religiously affiliated. Only 1.2% are Atheists. (See Pew Forum Statistics on Religion 2008). Why is it not bigoted for us to insist that 85 must forgo the public expression of their beliefs, so that one may have the pledge be entirely in line with their own? On what grounds do we claim such special privilege if not from a desire to silence the many in favor of the few? Is not this the very definition of bigotry?

    Mr. Gutfeld has the right idea about tolerance – it is founded in the freedom to express ideas that challenge and contradict others. Mr. Silverman, on the other hand, lables such expression as bigotry. He may as well call it what he thinks it is: sin against the Secular Theocracy he would impose on his fellow citizens.

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

      "Why is it not bigoted for us to insist that 85 must forgo the public expression of their beliefs, so that one may have the pledge be entirely in line with their own? On what grounds do we claim such special privilege if not from a desire to silence the many in favor of the few? Is not this the very definition of bigotry?"

      Might I refer you to: The 1st Amendment

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

        Yes, exactly, the 1st amendment. The things that we do together, that we do through government, are to be done irrespective of religion. Thats what the 1st amendment demands. It doesn't matter that 85% of the population believes in god. How would you feel if the pledge included the words "there is no god" or something to that affect. Would that not be offensive to you (assuming you are religious) to have to say that. I feel the same way. Removing any mention from god from the pledge is not an endorsement of atheism. There is a way to remain neutral and its required by the 1st amendment. I will fight to protect that.

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

        Because Atheism is NOT a belief . And equality and freedom FROM religion is what makes the top twenty best countries in the world.
        Afganistan is a perfect example of the opposite.
        The Taliban agrees with you.
        etc etc ....

        September 10, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      let's just change the POA back to the way the Founding Fathers wrote it, before it was corrupted by religious zealots.

      surely any patriotic American should be up in arms at religious zealots changing our foundations?!?!

      September 10, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
      • a

        Founding fathers did not write the POA a baptist minister in 1892 did. So really whats with the heartburn dont like under god don't say it.

        September 10, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • Thor

      I just want to know which of these gods that I am swearing to is. Is it the Baptist God? Is it the Quaker God? Perhaps it is the Mormon God? Or, perhaps it is the Wiccan God? Maybe the Satan God? Which one..?

      September 10, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      You are confusing "public expression" with "government expression", which makes the rest of your post moot.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • jrmullowney

      Nonsense. David Silverman simply wants the government to stay out of religion. He never suggested there should be no public displays of religion. He only wants that the government doesn't help you do it, endorse or condemn it. How do you not see that?

      September 10, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
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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.