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. ALesserGod

    So sayeth the christian taliban. aka Fox News. Just as intolerant as any muslim fanatic you'll ever find.

    September 10, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
  2. 1234

    I am neither religious or atheist...I just don't think the conversation is worth the time...but I do respect everyone's belief on the subject. I just don't understand why both sides continue to think that their beliefs should be pushed on others. I do not agree with the FOX host's comments and find them close-minded and discriminatory. The good thing about America is freedom of speech. She has the freedom to express her opinion as much as I have the freedom to turn the channel and choose other TV channels to watch for my information...I just hope that they don't have the same opinions as FOX, but, if so, I will keep changing the channel.

    September 10, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
  3. Rick

    I'm old enough to remember when "under God" wasn't in the Pledge of Allegiance. It came about because of the Cold War. Our Congress decided that one way to tell who was a Communist was to include it in the pledge because no true "Commie" could ever say the salute because it said "God." I say the salute because I love our country; whether it contains the word "God" is totally irrelevant.

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

      I suspect that it would mean something to you if you had to pledge allegiance to Allah, or Vishnu, right?

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

      I don't say the pledge at all. Ever. That solves all my problems with it.

      Oh, and I love my country too. I'm just not fond of brainwashing.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
  4. Ricardo

    Equality? What is that? If it is really about equality, would it not be the right of those American people who wants the, "In God we Trust" to keep it in the pledge? They say it is a violation of the student rights to say "In God We Trust" I say, it is a violation of my freedom of religion not to have the option to say it. Again, equality, what is that????

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

      IIn God we Trust, Under God, they are all the same things.

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

      Removing the line form the official pledge wouldn't take away your right to say it, nore would it affect your right to your beliefs. there is no religious requiremtent to inject "God" into national affirmations, so your personal religious practices aren't affected. However, by mandating that people who don't believe in "God", formally recognize one, and technically it's sovereignty, which REALLY goes against what we're built on, then it is a problem. Do you see whay your argument doesn't work?

      September 10, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
  5. sly

    Children should not be subjected to religious brainwashing – remove God from all government and education.

    My elementary school son cannot believe people think there is some fat white man in the clouds. I explain that many of his friends believe in this, and he is stunned.

    "Why dont they believe in science?".

    I explain that 97% of scientists in the NAS of course do not believe in fairy tales.

    September 10, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
  6. Shorn

    It's not a prayer – It's just thanking God for my right to be an atheist? WOW! I knew they lacked the IQ to tie their shoes over at FOX "news," but I didn't know they were actually too stupid to breathe. I feel sorry for the Christians who aren't morons. They have so many folks representing them who are just idiots.

    September 10, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • Ruby Long

      God is a pretty generalized word, what does it mean anyway? I can understand how an anti-theist would object, but more to the point, why should anybody be required to recite this little phrase, especially if they don't mean it and it is therefore, not a pledge?
      Many people in this country are not allied to the US, politically protesting the very government and it's policies, denying the rights of others, and of course, objecting to the intrusion of religion into governemnt.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      My sentiments exactly...

      September 10, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
  7. Rich

    If Christians don't like the separation of Church and State, they don't have to liver here.

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

      If Christians don't like the separation of Church and State, they don't have to live here.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

      Thanks fer turnin' the gubmint into a church.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
  8. Ally

    We are all atheists about most gods, some of us just go one god further.

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

      We're all Atheist when we're born....then most are forced into a belief system they never had a choice in joining.

      Indoctrination is the main reason religion and all its many, many flaws are continually perpetuated.

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

        I agree. Sunday schools are a form of intellectual molestation.

        September 10, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • Nick

      Good quote by Richard Dawkins.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
  9. James S.

    Leave the pledge the way it is.

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

      exactly, we should go back to the pre 1954 version. Things were suppose to be better back then any way.

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

      I prefer the original version.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
      • Ruby Long

        Right on, restore the original version. It is such a lovely expression of what our country was founded on and was before the churches stooped to political concquest.

        September 10, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
  10. mikeinmiami

    I myself am tired of Dana Perino

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

      Many more of us are tired of this push toward theocracy by religionists.

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

      II am tired of her, too. She is too stupid to think and see outside her conservative box

      September 10, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
  11. shante's mom

    ENOUGH ALREADY! Why would this even be discussed on national TV is beyond me. Leave well enough alone...............
    It seems to me, Fox TV is for the far right and only the far right. They want us all to comply to thier personal beliefs!!

    September 10, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Shante's mom is so fat... when she sits around the house, she really sits AROUND the house!

      September 10, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
  12. Em Wills

    Somebody much wiser than me once said that if somebody argues a position that is not based on logic, than it is impossible to refute said position based on logic. Ms. Perino is an air-headed dolt who couldn't argue her way out of a paper bag. This country was founded not based on "majority tyranny" but on protection of minorities. If one chooses not to believe in a god, then belief in a god would not be foisted upon them. If idiots like Perino are so insecure about their god's sustainability that they have to keep mentioning his name every fifteen seconds, that is their own dimwitted business. But those of us who can think for ourselves have just as much right not to have such beliefs forced down our throats. If you want to worship some god, then do it in the privacy of your home or church. But don't make me do it. Then again, like I said, my position is based on logic, and you can't argue logic with someone who is convinced that the easter bunny exits.

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

      I am truly convinced that the only way to end religion is for aliens to come down to earth. Then again, the religious folks might claim the aliens are demons and angels. People try to argue about God and religion...the problem is your arguing about something that doesnt exist anywhere other than your mind.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
      • Ruby Long

        Hah, white man's god is a political movement based on suppression of the minority.

        September 10, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
  13. lacey

    I guess this dates me; but I can remember when "under God" was ADDED to the pledge of allegience. It wasn't always there and I was as much a Christian before it was added as I am now. Whether or not it is there does NOT make me a Christian or not. My religion is strong enough that I don't NEED that to be there. I can also remember when it was added to our money. Not having it there doesn't make me an aetheist either! So much todo over such a small matter really. If one is strong enough in their beliefs they don't NEED that to be there in my opinion.

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

      Rational and reasonable.....you sure you're a Christian? 🙂

      September 10, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • theemptyone1

      As an American that can trace my ancestry on both sides to the 17th and 18th centuries on this continent, I don't see why I must be continually politically battered by either those who wish for some sort of theocratic rule or historically impossible Marxist utopia, such as CNN pushes daily. Americans were foremost encouraged to be free-thinking, educated individuals in order to allow for our democratic republic to flourish.

      The truth is that the American Experiment, has gotten out of hand. As Bob Dylan wrote in a later song: "George Lewis told the Englishman, the Italian and the Jew, "You can't open up your eyes, boys, to every conceivable point of view." They've got Charles Darwin out there on highway five. Judge says to the high sheriff, "I want him dead or alive. Either way, I don't care." High water everywhere." The truth is that America is over its head in special interest groups and an irrational stubbornness fueled by both Christianity and Marxist delusions and the country is stagnated as a result. It can no longer govern itself because for some time now, it has only been able to pretend to by attacking itself. Even Bob Dylan knows it. None of his messages in his music have been aimed at those "hopey, changey" themes since at least the early 1990s.

      September 10, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
  14. JIm

    I don't believe in religion and don't know about a God or "Supreme being" but until I do know, I will just live my life to my code of ethics and not what people from 4000 years ago thought was a good idea. "God" should not be in any oath or declaration that I make or atleast their should be a version which can be tailored for me. Swearing on bible makes not difference to me than swearing on a phonebook. in the 2010 census the fastest growing religious affiliation was atheist which for the first time beat out Islam. So this reporter should be careful, her way of thinking population will some day be the minority and she should hope that the rest of us are open minded. As I said, I don't believe in religion but I would fight for their rights to believe whatever they want..... as long as they don't hurt people and don't force their views on others.

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

      Similar to how many agnostic and humanists see things – don't know for sure overall, but know for sure that the fictions that all religions offer as "explanations" are complete nonsense.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • theemptyone1

      Okay, except atheism is by definition, "without religion." Atheism is a philosophical argument that since there is no tangible evidence for any supreme beings or supernatural phenomena, the judgement falls on the skeptical side of Occam's Razor, the philosophical principle that says that where all things are equal, the simplest answer is likely true. Atheists are eternally opened to the introduction of new evidence because it is not a dogmatic religion, but a scientific conclusion based on all available and observable evidence. And since belief in gods and devils is very old, it has possible had more opportunities to prove itself than any other proposition in the human gamut, and has continually failed to do so.

      September 10, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
  15. Reality

    What we do know: (from the fields of astrophysics, biology, biochemistry, archeology, nuclear physics, geology and the history of religion)

    1. The Sun will burn out in 3-5 billion years so we have a time frame.

    2. Asteroids continue to circle us in the nearby asteroid belt.

    3. One wayward rock and it is all over in a blast of permanent winter.

    4. There are enough nuclear weapons to do the same job.

    5. Most contemporary NT exegetes do not believe in the Second Coming so apparently there is no concern about JC coming back on an asteroid or cloud of raptors/rapture.

    6. All stars will eventually extinguish as there is a limit to the amount of hydrogen in the universe. When this happens (100 trillion years?), the universe will go dark. If it does not collapse and recycle, the universe will end.

    7. Super, dormant volcanoes off the coast of Africa and under Yellowstone Park could explode cataclysmically at any time ending life on Earth.

    8. Many of us are part Neanderthal and/or Denisovan.

    Bottom line: our apocalypse will start between now and 3-5 billion CE. The universe apocalypse, 100 trillion years?

    Supporting references:

     http://www.universetoday.com/18847/life-of-the-sun/



    Search for Paul, book by Professor JD Crossan

    Rabbi Paul, book by Professor Bruce Chilton



    September 10, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
  16. James Quinn

    I'm 50 years young and back in my day things were fairly mandatory no one was supposed to ask questions nor deny or reject what was down. So you can imagine the day I decided to stop doing the pledge caused a bit of a stir. I was sent to the Principles office and then there I was threatened with all sorts os stuff to which I found amusing and laughed out loud at. To make a very long story short there was a lot of fuss but my will was supreme and I never did the pledge again because of the under god thing.

    Pagan jim

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

      "Principles office"?

      Freudian slip perhaps? 🙂

      September 10, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

      Socies have no limits when it comes to bullyin'. When they talk about a "line in the sand" their HOPE is a windstorm. BBbbbwwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhha

      September 10, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • theemptyone1

      To "50 years young" – "The pessimist says the glass is half empty, while the optimist says it is half full. But the realist knows that soon there will be another dirty glass to wash."

      September 10, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
  17. BillyD

    I've never really cared whether or not it was in the pledge. I think saying the pledge every day is silly and a little offensive, but I've never cared enough to fight that battle really. It doesn't hurt me, and people are going to find other ways to show off how "patriotic" and "religious" they are in other odd manners even if those don't exist. I just go about my business. However, the plaintiff's attorney did make good points about how it suggests that non-believers are second class patriots and citizens.

    September 10, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
  18. Matt

    As they say....money is the root of all evil, and money is what our greedy and corrupt politicians and business leaders actually worship ... so the religious statement printed on our money is appropriate. Since we also worship guns... we should pass a law requiring religious references on bullets too.

    September 10, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
  19. Time For You To Grow Up...

    There are over 3000 different religions in the world, each one worshipping a god... As soon as you come to understand why you reject all those other gods, you'll understand why I reject yours.

    September 10, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
  20. Jay Boston

    I am a right wing, CHRISTIAN and happen to love FOX!!! I also love Jesus, I feel sorry for you that you are not able to believe that there is something out there bigger than YOU!!! Yeah it is a coincidence that we are far enough from the sun so we don't burn, but close enough to have perfect temperatures to sustain life, specifically human life. Science has only backed up the stories in the bible, so you might want to start to think about your beliefs, ASK GOD to show himself and he WILL come to you, just look beyond your own ego!!!

    In God I Trust!!!

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

      sigh. You have causality backwards.

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

        exactly. There are many planets around many stars. Some have conditions right for life and some don't. On those that produce life it turns out their situation just happens to be 100% perfect for that sort of life - go figure.

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

        And sigh again. Yes, the fundamental error is one of perspective. There is 'something larger' than humanity: it is nature, the Cosmos. But nature does not exist 'for' humans; humans are an evolved, inter-connected instance of life wholly within and adapted to the contingencies of nature. It bears reiterating: there is no supernatural or paranormal, only the natural and normal which are more or less well understood.

        September 10, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
    • Time For You To Grow Up...

      Your beliefs don't alter reality... Time for you to grow up and stop believing in fairy tales.

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

      This is why my Aussie friends give me shit, when people like you run around yelling "'MURICA!!!"

      September 10, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Ladies and Gentleman: Behold in Jay Boston the downfall of the United States. Wanting to keep this country in the middle ages, cowering in fear of the imaginary sky daddy. Time for this nation to grow up.

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

      Spencer is correct about having causality backwards. Furthermore, assuming the Bible is correct, God will NOT show himself to you. Otherwise, there would be no need for faith which is the cornerstone. If all you had to do was ask, then everyone would have by now and would be part of the same religion. However, your first statement after affirming your love for Jesus is probably more telling than the rest of your comment. You seem to relish in this, "I'm better than you because I'm Christian," bit that comes up far too often.

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

      I believe God can pucker up his Divine lips, lean on down, and suck my ass. Afterwards he can beg me for seconds.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • HA25

      Add in another sigh.
      Look, Jay. Google me this. How many stars are in a galaxy? And how many galaxies are there? How many stars have how many planets? Keep doing the math and you'll realize there are more stars in the universe than GRAINS OF SAND on the PLANET.
      Odds are pretty good one or two will be the right distance from a sun and be made of rock and have water. In fact, odds are a few billion are.
      By the way, could you explain to me how in Genesis God created light and dark and a day on day 1 but not the Sun until Day 4? I hate to break it to you – but science backs up absolutely NOTHING in the bible.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Carson Rhodes Thaler

      Two things. Fox News is a Conservative tabloid that preys on false information... so "Faux News- Where Bad News is Good News." is more appropiate... Switch that x tot Swastika and you'd be more on target.... Second off, Osama Bin Laden was a Conservative too... Just a Muslim one.... Hitler anyone? a Conservative Socialist.... Anders' Brevik, a Conservative Christian... Mao, a Conservative Communist.... see the trend here? nearly every mass murderer in history was a conservative of some sort where nearly every wise person was a liberal.... Do tell me how "Jesus" was NOT a liberal? Good luck 😉

      September 10, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
      • HA25

        You want to argue over the political affiliation of someone for whom there is zero historical evidence he even Existed? Add to that the fact that there were no "liberals" vs. "conservatives". There weren't even political parties.
        So exactly what debate are you challenging us to?

        September 10, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
    • James Quinn

      Does muy not believing in a god mean something about my ego? how so? You made me as k this question because you thinkI don believe there is something bigger than I. I am 5'8" and believe me I am well aware there are are many things at least as big as I and plainly bigger:) I don't believe because it's not my nature prove something too me and I will except for one can not deny fact, but ask me to believe and you have a problem I either know or I con't know and I'm not afraid of not knowing such that I need to fill in the blanks in my knowledge with the silly and or belief.

      Pagan jim

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

      I love Fox too. It's the professional wrestling of news. Nothing on there is real, but it's all highly entertaining. Nah, I'm kidding, I don't watch that crap. I fear I'm losing enough brain cells as I age, I don't want to hasten the process.

      September 10, 2013 at 12:51 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.