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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. jamesfoley

    Dana Perino doesn't get to call foul regarding atheists when she had a so called christian conservative cheerleading death in Iraq.

    September 10, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
    • Kappelmeister

      I was in 4th grade when "under God" was added to the pledge. I didn't like it then and I don't like it now. And I'm not an atheist - I'm a main-line Christian (not fundamental/evangelical/born again) who believes that religious doctrine should not be inflicted on our children by the government. That's just un-american!

      September 10, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
  2. lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

    The pledge is teaching FALSE doctrines.That slipped by the socie author. All nations are under God's judgment, silly socies.

    September 10, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • My Dog is a jealous Dog

      Please define socie.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
      • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

        Please define dog house.

        September 10, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
      • Jackson

        Short answer: everyone except lol??.

        September 10, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
  3. Casandra

    If Christian law is acceptable, so is Sharia law. Religious freedom is about removing religion from government, not attempting to influence Government with Religion

    September 10, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
  4. Frank Gerber

    Thank God! I thought I was going to have to move in with Dana Perino.

    September 10, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
  5. Dani

    I'm a Atheist but I don't go around yelling it and honestly I don't really care if they keep it in or take it out its up to the kid if he/she wants to say it or not, The original Pledge of Allegiance was without the "under god" part until the 50's was it then added. I don't get why this is a big deal sheesh... you have your crazy christians and you have your crazy atheists we're al the same

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

      Great statement. You're right. We're just all human.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • a2zeee75

      Right on Dani ! I consider myself a Christian but have friends and relatives that consider themselves atheists as well. And guess what.....we get along just fine. Thanks for the one smart comment on this subject.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • Philip

      If you consider the reaction if "under God" were changed to "under Allah", I think you'll see it's not sensible at all.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • Tyler Durden

      You've restored my faith in my fellow atheists. 🙂

      September 10, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      If you don't stand up for a basic principles like equality... and separation of church and state... what WILL you stand up for Dani?

      September 10, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
  6. suliwen

    OK, so CNN has decided to open the door on snipes between Fox and CNN. Let the games begin! I believe there is a great deal more fodder for this fight for Fox to use than CNN could ever drag out. The Infotainment that CNN has become has left us listening to the opinions of anchors and reporters who clearly do not have a basic understanding of what they are reporting. It is, after all, not the news anymore. And noone will notice the difference, right? Wrong.

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

      LOL, you wanna talk "infotainment"? Fox has a metric s ton of that for fodder too!

      September 10, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
      • suliwen

        I agree. But it never started out to be "The World's News Leader" like CNN did. Being from Atlanta and knowing many who have worked at CNN over the years, I can tell you they have become a laughing stock in the real news industry. I agree that both Fox and CNN are bad, but CNN still pretends to have the professional edge. Not so.

        September 10, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • My Dog is a jealous Dog

      At least CNN did not go to the courts to reserve the right to lie and call it news.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
      • suliwen

        No, they just did it anyway. Why should that day be any different?

        September 10, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • SurelyUjest

      It isnt called Faux News for nothing.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
  7. LastOne Standing

    Religion has been one of the most powerful law enforcement tools in every country in the world. Without religion people tend to disobey. They ask too many questions, that leaders can't or won't answer.

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

      "God" forbid. Ha.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • Time For You To Grow Up...

      Religious people disobey far more often than the non-religious.. Religion is nothing more than a way to attempt to control weak-minded people.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • Jackson

      Bull. Shit.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • doobzz

      "Without religion people tend to disobey."

      Is that why more than two thirds of the federal prison population in the USA identify themselves as Christians?

      September 10, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
  8. ssthro

    How about we change it to "one nation under Allah" or "one nation under Satan". No one would object to that, right? And if you would object, you could simply not say the words. And if you didn't like it, you could leave. Sound reasonable?

    September 10, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • Rebbe Bupkis

      "Under God" was added in 1948. Not a part of the original. 😉

      September 10, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
      • TS

        I think it was 1954 as part of the "Red" scare but the point is well taken.

        September 10, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
  9. McLarnan

    It just kills me how much "pride" these patriots put into a complete accident. Surely, if you're a "Christian" you must believe that you're an infinite soul within a physical body, in that case, your physical body doesn't define "you". So...why does it matter THIS MUCH where your mother happened to pop you out? Your folks could just as easily have knocked boots with no rubber on a ship in the middle of the ocean. I hear many of you say life starts at conception, which of course, is hard to argue with. In this case, who do you pledge allegiance to? Quit being so proud of an accident, it's completely foolish.

    September 10, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
  10. Joe Plumber

    You don't have to be an atheist to want "Under God" removed from the pledge.I think it has no place, especially since we basically force children to say it. It smacks of indoctrination and it is a religious affirmation.

    September 10, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
  11. Scott

    Roughly 85% of Americans identify themselves as believing in God in one form or another (Christians (77%), Jews (1.7%), Muslim (0.6%), etc) with Atheists making up about 15%. Those are hard facts. The will of the majority (in this case the VAST majority) should prevail. Keep "under God" in the pledge.

    September 10, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • Are you Nuts

      IIt isn't about a majority, though. It's unnecessary and potentially ostracizing to have those words in the Pledge of Allegiance.

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

      In case you hadn't noticed, the Consti.tution was set up to protect the rights of the minority from the tyranny of the majority.

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

      Except for that pesky 1st Amendment thing ... #justsayin

      September 10, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      It's about the Consti-tution and the separation of government and religion. If the majority said that it should be legal to own slaves, would that make it okay?

      September 10, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
    • kevinfreund

      Majority rule? Ok, non-whites are the majority in the United States. Get out.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
      • Hatefulhappy

        Wrrong, Whites still make up 64% of the population.

        September 10, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • Doris

      Lol. No, the will of the majority is important, grant you, but not if it undermines the Const-itution and its Amendments. Now if you want to push to amend those, then, by all means, assemble a Const-itutional Convention and proceed to check-out.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • SurelyUjest

      So hypothetically if you lived in a state that was 75% Muslim you would have no problem with your kids having to get on a mat and face mecca 5 times a day because the Majority voted it in to law?

      September 10, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • Brad

      We are a republic not a democracy, do a little research and learn the diffference.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
    • Brad

      Scott, Your figures are extremely out of date, please try to be current so you don't mislead any of the less-informed folks. Thanks!

      September 10, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
      • cleareye1

        Have you reviewed church attendance statistics? If it weren't for illegal immigrants and the uneducated there would be hardly anyone going to a Sunday service. Check Europe also. The more education you have, the less likely you will spend your Sundays chanting.

        September 10, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
    • Doug

      So if 85% of Americans think people name Scott should be not be free and be bought and sold as slaves that would OK?

      September 10, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
    • What'sItToMe?

      I believe in God, and for that very reason I support a full separation of church and state. We do force kids to recite this. Why should we force them into civil disobedience starting at 6 just because a majority of us do believe in some form of God and some don't? It's not about what the majority believes. One day, the majority may be quite different. If it's not that important and we think atheists should just accept it or move, then that in itself is to me the reason to remove this phrase from the pledge. It's only important to the extent that some religious folks WANT there to be a religious statement there. Since that's why it's there, that's the reason it should be removed.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • No_longer_svelte,_they_gotta_punch_new_holes_in_the_Bible_belt

      If you have to preface your statistics with roughly then they are not " hard facts." That being said I personally have no issue with the words under god in the Pledge of Allegiance. In my opinion the Pledge of Allegiance lost its weight as soon as I realized that I was pledging my allegiance to a county that does not perform "God's will." If their actions reflected "God's will" then we as a country would be accepting of cultural differences, nationally and internationally, as "all men are created in god's image." Therefore, if we are to be nation of religious stewards we need to stop the vocal minority of the 85% (your figure not mine) of American's who use their deity to judge their peers with some sort of moral superiority. Until we fix the judgmental American religious groups we as a nation have no right to judge anyone for their believes that contradict ours, Atheists included.

      September 10, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
  12. Eric

    ...then you don't have to live here. Wow, this is how little kids make an arguement. Didn't realize we were letting 7 years olds write news these days.

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

      we're lucky to be part of the uprising "smart" generation, it's only a matter of time before these idiots die out

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

      Yeah, it's the kind of idiotic retort one can make to anything, including her complaint: Don't like someone being able to challenge the pledge, just don't live here.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
  13. libertyadamson

    I like the 'under God' sentiment of the pledge. To me it is a broad acknowledgment that we are indeed the created beings of God. To serve God or not to serve God is up to the individual, but the fact of His existence and our being his creation is something we all live with because he has made it so.

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

      LOL
      DERP!

      September 10, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Derp indeed! That's YOUR opinion – that we were all created by some magical sky father, and you have the absolute right to believe that. Go ahead – rock on! Unfortunately, many, many people do NOT believe that, and many would think you delusional for holding such a belief.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • comanchesixromeo

      Your really going to use your imaginary friend as the staple for your argument?

      September 10, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      One Nation Under Allah

      September 10, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • mik

      wow. QED, huh?
      Seriously – The First Amendment states "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion," yet Congress did exactly that here. The bottom line is that the previous wording offends nobody, while the current wording requires that a non-trivial minority of citizens not recite it in its entirety because it requires pledging to be subordinate to a (single) Deity. "One nation, indivisible" is a statement of unity. "On nation, under god" is inherently and *intentionally* divisive.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
    • doobzz

      Translation:

      I'm comfortable in my delusions, and I'm in the majority, so fuck all y'all.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
  14. lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

    Why would the Masters want to take a pledge TO the gubmint?? How 'bout the Public Servants make a pledge to the Masters?? Wouldn't that be a change and abhorrent to da commies??

    September 10, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

      I'll call yer dog a commie too – for free- just ask!

      September 10, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
  15. Sileste

    Unfortunately, I don't have time to read all the comments on this article. All I want to say is shame on FOX. I am an Atheist and at no time have I EVER felt that "Under God" should be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance. If someone doesn't want that part there then they just don't say those words. How simple is that?

    September 10, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
    • Doc

      It's as simple as it gets. Thanks for being a rational thinker, Sileste. There aren't too many on either side when it comes to discussions of religion (and I'm NOT an Atheist.).

      September 10, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
  16. Lisa

    Well Mr. Silverman, I am tired of atheists who think equality only applies to them. It's just as offensive to me to take out the phrase "under God" as it is for you to have it in. Where's the "equality" for those of us who DO believe in God?

    September 10, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
    • jrs

      praising the invisible man makes no sense.

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

        And here you're free to not praise. Allow others the same freedom to praise if they so choose. If you don't want to say "under God", no one's holding a gun to your head. Just don't say it.

        September 10, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • Scott

      Well said!

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

      The equality lies in your home and your place of worship. Teach your children all you want about god the devil, heaven , hell, sin etc.....Leave my kids out of it. The only way to do that is to leave it out of Schools and Government. I am not an Atheist I have my own private beliefs and want my family to have the right NOT to have YOUR beliefs pushed down my kids throats at school and other public places.

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

      What about us who believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster? I'll let you keep "God" if you change it to "God or they Flying Spaghetti Monster"

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

      Uh, without it would be neutral

      When you were born you didn't believe or disbelieve in any god(s)..........neutral.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • Doris

      The question of equality should have been addressed when they modified it. Sometimes it takes a while for these wall of separation issues to be applied properly.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Wolf Blitzers Beard

      Your god is your business. You worship him in church and home. To be equal, lets not bring him into my home, work or school. Other people either do not believe, believe in something else, or don't care about what you think is real. If god wanted kids to keep under god in the pledge, Moses would have carved it in a tablet, and put it in a safe place. The god you worship never mentioned, you, America, or any other land outside the middle east. If you want to be closer to god, I know where you might want to go look. America is not where you will find him. This is where people came to get away from people like you.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
  17. Wakeup America

    This country was founded on a covenant with God; the Pilgrims came here to worship God and not be persecuted. When immigrants came here they had a right to worship any way they wanted (and still do) but that doesn't mean that America is no longer a Judeo-Christian country!! So when she says, if you don't like Christmas, Easter, etc then don't stay – she is correct.

    September 10, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
    • Spencer

      sigh. And mentalities like this are why we can't have nice things.

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

      stop yelling and the invisible man is waiting for your donation

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

      Except we were never founded as a Judeo-Christian nation

      September 10, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • ME II

      Actually, while one of the early British colonies, the Pilgrims did *not* found the US.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • Anomic Office Drone

      The phrase "under God" wasn't added to the pledge until 1952, 60 years after the pledge was actually written.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
      • Anomic Office Drone

        Actually, it was 1954. I remembered wrong.

        September 10, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
    • sam

      Jesus Christ.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • SurelyUjest

      You are wrong Sir the pilgrims/calvanists and Puritans came here to escape religious persecution they wanted to be free of Protestant and Catholics shoving their brand of Christianity down their gullet. For instance Thomas jefferson won the presidency largly because then Baptists a minority at the time supported separation of church and state and didnt want to be persecuted here in America. Its funny how Christians when in the Majority find moral high ground in claiming "this is how is is and always has been under god" but when they are the minority claim moral high ground saying "we just want to be free to worship withot oppression".

      How does if feel not only to be wrong in your facts but also be a hypocrite? History bears my facts out as the truth. You need to look things up again try using something other than the bible and what your preacher friend told you.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • Doris

      Umm – no, it wasn't.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • Owen

      Everything you just said is factually wrong. You are the one who needs to wake up. How do you figure that this is a Judeo-Christian country? Just because you don't know anybody who isn't a christian, doesn't mean this is a christian nation, it just means you are a hick with a very narrow world view. you are what's wrong with this country because you're antiquated views are holding us back.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • sybaris

      Wakeup America<<<<<<<<<<<< perpetuating ignorance.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • Thomas

      The pilgrims came here as outlaws, criminals, adventurers and better life seekers, the thing they tell that they came here for freedom of religion is just plain BS. Read some history book.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • McLarnan

      As long as there are people who think this way, and live their lives by these thoughts, humanity will not be able to evolve to the amazing powerful beings we're meant to be. Look at Jesus, he's pretty much been made into "God" by us, because of the incredible things he did. However, you're just as capable of everything he did as he was, and so am I. "Faith can move a mountain"...there is truth in your Bible, it's just been mixed up to keep us dumb, ha. As long as you continue to believe the media and fail to look inside yourselves for answers, you're screwed. I'm not saying there is no "God force"...it's within all of us, and sure the 10 commandments are very good guidelines to live by, but there's no big man in the sky controlling us, if there were,first of all, the obvious...we'd be able to find him, also... what a never ending pain in the neck he would have set himself up for. Welcome to free will. Welcome to 2013, we have discovered universes outside of our own, many of your ancient ways of thinking just don't make sense anymore. Time to evolve. For lack of a better term....quit being mindless sheep, put a little logic into your day.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • doobzz

      "This country was founded on a covenant with God;"

      Liar, liar, pants on fire.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
  18. tott

    79% of US is Christian, 5% other religion, 16% unaffiliated. This is a democracy so we vote to keep to keep "under God" in the pledge. Don't like it.....find another country where your beliefs are the vast majority and go and be happy. But for now, quit wasting tax payer's dollars to have the courts listen to your stupidity!!

    September 10, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
    • James Quinn

      The "rights"of the minority can not be taken way by the ternary of the minority.

      Pagan jim

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

        Well said

        Pagan – Rob

        September 10, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • comanchesixromeo

      Actually tott, we are not a democracy, we are a republic. If you took the time to pay attention in civics class you might know this. And by the way, I will be happy to stop wasting tax payer dollars in having the courts listen to my "stupidity", as soon as your church relinquishes its tax exempt status. Sound fair?

      September 10, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • john henry

      We don't live in a democracy, we like in a republic. A republic insures that the masses cannot step on the rights of the minority.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • Hatefulhappy

      We live in a constiutional federalist republic. Wich BTW, isnt a democracy. Read the first amendment again.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • sybaris

      So by your logic you just follow any majority.

      Then if you had lived in Germany say around 1940 you would have lined up with all the other goose steppers.

      Critical thinking pays better dividends than blind faith.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • bob

      Funny thing is... we don't live in a true democracy... We live in a representative democracy... or a republic.

      You know that line? "For the republic for which is stands"

      And sadly only 40% of that 79% is ever in power due to our two party system. The vast majority, who may not even like who they vote for, fall one way or the other since they like the other guy less.

      So our will as the people is dissolved and diluted across a system that doe not give us much choice beyond "Pick A, B or None" ("none" also includes third parties since they either get buried or suck votes from the other party most similar to them... still not winning, but instead causing the guy you might have liked more to lose)

      September 10, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • doobzz

      This is my country, too, and I pay taxes. Keep your beliefs in your church and your home, and out of the public schools.

      September 10, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
  19. Quid Malmborg in Plano TX

    "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.'"

    Typical whiny, hypocritical neo-con with nothing better to offer than the usual "If you don't like the way things are then leave" routine. True dialogue is beyond their comprehension and beneath their idea of morality. For them, actually discussing a problem with those of opposing beliefs is tantamount to negotiating with terrorists.

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

      ^this^ 🙂

      September 10, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
  20. Javadude54

    It's just a case of Christians shoving their religion down everyone's throats. Nothing new here.

    September 10, 2013 at 12:25 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.