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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. Sue

    Americans worship many gods, why just have one in the pledge?

    September 10, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      It is unsettling that most Americans want to put their nation in a position subordinate in their hearts and minds to something imaginary.

      September 10, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
  2. jrbrugger

    Give it the axe. End of story. Religious beliefs have historically and will continue to alter – just as cultural beliefs. Why stall progress and wait for the inevitable?

    September 10, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
    • tom

      In 1990 87% of Americans considered themselves to be Christian. In 2012 that was down to 76%. While still a sizable majority the trend is pretty clear and is showing no signs of slowing down.

      September 10, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
      • sly

        97% of scientists do not believe in God.

        Now, what would a highly educated person know? I prefer to listen to religious leaders like the Ayatollah and the Pope and to sheepherders everywhere.

        September 10, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
      • Richard Cranium

        The number of people who believe something has no bearing on the validity of the belief. On the other hand, the pledge was supposed to be all inclusive, and the christians hijacked it, excluding any who did not share their beleif.

        September 10, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
  3. DE

    Christians have been persecuting none believers for centuries. Christians have committed some of the most heinous atrocities in human history. They have destroyed art and civilzations in the name of their god. Their god will standby and watch as millions of INNOCENT children suffer and die for cancer and other diseases or die an excruciating death of starvation, but according to christianmingle.com he can find you a mate. Amazing!!!! Christians can keep their evil hypocritical god.

    September 10, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
  4. Jeff

    "Under God" wasn't added until 1954. Knights of Columbus were the first to start using "Under God" statement in the Pledge. It SHOULD be removed and the pledge returned to its original form.

    September 10, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
  5. celusil

    Why don't we just give up and put them all in? under santa claus under the easter bunny under jeebus. I prefer the original or the modified original from before 1954. Religious expression in any form should be kept out of the public forum in my opion

    September 10, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      "Religious expression in any form should be kept out of the public forum in my opion"

      It's not just your opinion, it's the constltution we so proudly hold up and is envied throughout the world. Only religious morons and Fox News pundits would want to p i s s on our constltution this way.

      September 10, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
  6. TxCentrist

    It works both ways. If Dana doesn't like it, she can move somewhere else. Like Iran, for example.

    September 10, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
  7. Joe Doe

    If we respect the right of Atheists to have a pledge o allegiance without references to GOD, then we disrespect the right of Christians to have the reference in such allegiance. I'd say, let's pretend we live in a democracy, have a national vote and decide. Let the majority who wins get their way and the losers have a cup of shut the phk up.

    September 10, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      I'd rather live in a country with a contltution that protectsa the rights of the minority as well as the majority, so I'll stay here in America. You are more than welcome to move to Iran where the majority can vote for a theocracy.

      September 10, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
    • Jay

      Umm no. This is not a democracy, this is a democratic republic. There's a difference. Furthermore, we have separation of church and state, and it's wrong to reference god (or be forced to reference god) by way of a pledge. This is not a christian nation. We are a secular nation who just happens to have more than our fair share of conservative christians.

      September 10, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
    • Hey! You!

      Christians can have their own Pledge and can recite it, print it, have it tattooed on their butt, but it should not be the National version. That should represent all people, like the flag does and the original version of the Pledge did.

      September 10, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
    • sam

      We live in a democratic republic, dumbass, and people of every faith (including none) live here and will continue to do so. We'll be happy to keep the majority in check.

      September 10, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
    • Hey! You!

      And if we're voting for crap, lets have a vote to have Conservative Christians imprisoned . Would that be ok if the approves of it?

      September 10, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
    • doobzz

      Yes, Joe, you're right. Let mob rule reign! Screw the minorities!

      When the Supreme Court decided in favor of legalizing interracial marriage in 1967, the majority of Americans were opposed to it. Christians have amazingly short memories.

      September 10, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
    • MKMilan

      The reason for a democracy and laws is to protect the minority from the tyrrany of the majority. In how many states would slavery still exist if left to the majority of voters!

      September 10, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
    • Daniel in Denver

      Good thinking, Joe. While we're at it, why don't we let the majority decide whether blacks can marry whites, women can vote, etc. There is a good reason why the majority doesn't rule in all cases. There would be no progress otherwise.

      September 10, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
  8. Dario

    Funny how someone who doesn't see the other side's point of view.....thinks that side is selfish and small minded and trying to inflict their beliefs upon others. Yet they have no religious interest. But they are inflicting their beliefs on you. Makes sense. And that is why you work for Fox.

    September 10, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
  9. nate lang

    Repent! Or thou shall spend eternity munching on a turd with Piers Morgan.

    September 10, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
  10. jason

    It has only been in the pledge since the fifties- why is removing it a big deal?

    September 10, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
    • Jay

      Many christians are obviously placing the essence of their personal relationship with god or jesus on this one phrase.

      September 10, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
  11. Alexander

    Anything said exactly the same way every day because "it's time to say it" will lose its meaning very quickly. It's obvious the kids have no idea what they are saying–just listen to how they say it... "I pledge allegiance... to the flag... of the United States of the America... and to the republic... for which it stands." It's all supposed to be one sentence, for crying out loud! They have no clue. Why are we making them say it? It hearkens to insecure totalitarian regimes.

    September 10, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
    • Jacob

      I know–who talks that way, right?

      September 10, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
  12. Dyslexic doG

    The founding fathers clearly and unequivocally said "separation of church and state" but sneaky Christians have been poisoning the legacy of these great men by sneaking in the name of their sky fairy at every opportunity.

    it's un-American! it's spitting on what makes this country so great.

    September 10, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
  13. dtayal

    First world problems are unbelievably inconsequential

    September 10, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
    • doobzz

      Opposing bigotry is never inconsequential.

      September 10, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
    • Daniel in Denver

      Would your suggestion be that we just rest then, while the rest of the world catches up?

      September 10, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
  14. Rumi phytagoras

    why do they even add the words "Under God " at the first point years after the countries independence ?

    September 10, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      scared of the communists.

      September 10, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
  15. lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

    So was Bellamy a,
    A)dirtbag false brethren
    B)dirtbag true Scotsman
    C)dirtbag man of the cloth, cloth merchant
    D)plain ol' psychopathic brain damaged socie who appealed to mobs

    September 10, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      sad, feeble troll

      September 10, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
      • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

        Have a little ALPO, dog. It will chase those blues away.

        September 10, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
    • Doris

      Whoever he was, at least he didn't sound like a pitiful butt-hurt idiot. Something you manage to achieve with every "reply".

      September 10, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
      • doobzz

        I love you, Doris!

        September 10, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
    • Jackson

      Such contempt. Sig Heil!

      September 10, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
    • sly

      Who the hell is 'Bellamy'?

      Wow – I pretty much never know what these godsters are talking about. It's the same when I encounter them at airports handing out big books and chanting Hari Hari Hari. Who the hell is Harry anyhow?

      I wouldn't mind them so much if I knew what the heck language they spoke.

      September 10, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
  16. kaliko88

    Those Christians? Why does it almost always seem as if atheists target just Christians? If they're against religion, any religion, why do I never hear them taking aim at Jews, Muslims, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Pagans, heck, even Satanists? Seems a little lopsided to me, more like a targeted prejudice.

    September 10, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
    • ME II

      Christians are by far the majority in the US.
      That being said Atheists do "attack" others:
      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/03/01/atheist-group-targets-muslims-jews-with-myth-billboards-in-arabic-and-hebrew/

      September 10, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
    • sam

      Christians tend to be the loudest proponents of making sure everyone lives by their rules. Have you seen another religion around here lately that keeps freaking out about gay marriage, abortion, and Chik Fil A?

      September 10, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      because the largest religion in the US by a long way is christianity. The largest most powerful religious lobby groups in the US are also christian. And the the groups that like to push for religion being introduced into society are also mainly christian.
      Now if hindu groups were doing the same then yes, you will see us talk out about them too.

      September 10, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
      • David

        To all you so called Atheist ... are you really that offended or are you just bored? Where were you say 30, 40 or 50 years ago and why weren't you calling for this to be removed then? Is this really an issue? Or is this just another case of a minority tired of not getting their way and feel they are being bullied. I am a Christian and my faith is very strong. Words are just words and changing a sentence will not all the sudden make my faith weak or make it stronger. I for one think it needs to stay. If you don't like it, don't say it. Simple as that. When a jehovah's witness comes to my door, I simply don't answer the door. I DON'T make a trip to congress and ask for them to pass a bill to force them to stay away.

        September 10, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
        • sam

          If your faith is that strong then I'm sure you're just fine with our country's pledge reflecting how secular our nation is intended to be.

          Right?

          September 10, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
        • cedar rapids

          'To all you so called Atheist ... are you really that offended or are you just bored?'
          So called? interesting, what do you mean by so called? And yeah I am 'offended' by it.

          'Where were you say 30, 40 or 50 years ago and why weren't you calling for this to be removed then?'
          In school, in daycare, not born. Next question.

          'I am a Christian and my faith is very strong. Words are just words and changing a sentence will not all the sudden make my faith weak or make it stronger.'
          Then you will have no issue with changing it then.

          September 10, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • doobzz

      Your persecution complex is showing.

      September 10, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      the Christian Taliban rules here in the US ... so we fight the good fight against the evil here.

      September 10, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
    • Jake

      Because it's primarily Christians who want to force their beliefs upon the rest of us and our children. There are Christians who actually try to have creationism taught in public schools as if it's a legitimate scientific theory. You don't see other religions doing that, at least not to the same degree.

      September 10, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
    • Nick

      Christians are by far the majority in the area where I live, so it only makes sense for me to 'target' them more than other religions. If I lived in India, maybe I'd bump heads more with the Hindus.

      September 10, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
    • DE

      Because it has historically been christians who have been persecuting non-believers.

      September 10, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
    • vinster76

      you also never see them take on muslims, for all their educated, self-sufficient, proud, arrogant and boastful selves, they know better than to go after muslims....they might just find themselves headless........

      September 10, 2013 at 3:00 pm |
      • sam

        You're apparently new here.

        September 10, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
      • ME II

        from just a few comments above:

        http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/03/01/atheist-group-targets-muslims-jews-with-myth-billboards-in-arabic-and-hebrew/

        September 10, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
  17. OMG

    Remember, in the USA it's freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion. Atheists and the like need to shut up and deal with it. In God We Trust, right? Or are they gonna sue to get all money reprinted/reminted as well? Where does it stop?

    September 10, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
    • Jacob

      You are so wrong.

      September 10, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
    • ME II

      When the government stops endorsing religion as proscribed by the 1st amendment.

      September 10, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
    • Hey! You!

      'In God We Trust', all others pay cash!

      September 10, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
    • Doris

      No, there is a component of "freedom from religion" built into our common law.

      September 10, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
    • tom

      Getting the money reprinted will be the next step.

      September 10, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
      • David

        As the Bible states... there will be one currency one day and in that day, there will be no words "In God We Trust" ... It's going to happen whether we Christians like it or not. It's written and so shall it come to pass. I'm not stressing about it because I'm prepared. Christians will one day be persecuted for their beliefs but the final outcome will be ours and full victory while all others will pay for their transgressions. All of this is depicted in the book of Revelations. Read it people and you to will understand what is to come. Praise be to God in the highest!!

        September 10, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
        • sam

          Wow.

          September 10, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      it should stop where it started. The founding fathers clearly and unequivocally said "separation of church and state" but sneaky Christians have been poisoning the legacy of these great men by sneaking in the name of their sky fairy at every opportunity.

      it's un-American! it's spitting on what makes this country so great.

      September 10, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
    • rdeleys

      It stops when people like you quit forcing their religion down the throats of others. I'm an American, and I most certainly DON'T trust in god. How could I when I don't believe god exists? But I have as much right to be here as you.

      September 10, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'Remember, in the USA it's freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion'

      Its both. For you to be free to practice your religion you have to therefore be free from having other religions pushed on you.

      As for currency......dont worry, that is also being targetted, though no one is forced to say 'in god we trust' when spending a dollar.

      September 10, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
    • doobzz

      "Remember, in the USA it's freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion"

      Wrong. It's both. Too bad you didn't pay attention in civics class, it would have saved you from making such foolish statements.

      September 10, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
    • Brian

      There was some little line...what was it...oh yes..
      The "Establishment Clause," stating that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion," is generally read to prohibit the Federal government from establishing a national church ("religion") or excessively involving itself in religion, particularly to the benefit of one religion over another...
      as quoted from Wikipedia

      September 10, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
    • Has to be A Joke

      I'm not a practicing religious person but I never found any issue of "In God We Trust"...or "One Nation Under God"....People who are truly offended by this need to find something else to occupy their time... I thought the whole thing about being atheist was that they didnt care to get off the sofa on Sunday morning...not turning into some sort of political PC machine that spits on tradition.

      September 10, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
      • cedar rapids

        'I thought the whole thing about being atheist was that they didnt care to get off the sofa on Sunday morning...not turning into some sort of political PC machine that spits on tradition.'

        Blame the rleigious who are bringing their god into the classroom, not the atheists.
        And the tradition was that under god was not in the pledge, but they spat on that and added it anyway.

        September 10, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
      • ME II

        " I thought the whole thing about being atheist was that they didnt care to get off the sofa on Sunday morning."

        Well, you were incorrect.

        September 10, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
      • Brian

        I am not Atheist and I find your remark offensive. You think the "Christian" who attends Church on Sunday or Saturday night because it is more convenient before they head out to the bar is a better person?

        Christians have a place to worship, they don't need the Government to force children to recite a religious pledge at public schools.

        September 10, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
    • Johnny

      I guess luckily for us religious idiots are constantly calling atheism a religion.

      September 10, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
  18. factchecker

    "With liberty and justice for all" is a lot more far fetched than "under god". Athesists have to put up with stupid god references all the time, this is no issue.

    September 10, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
  19. Brian

    I am not Atheist and I want the words taken out. Separation of Church and State. Removing words from a forced recital will not make you any less Christian. They cannot take the religion out of a person and the words will not bring you closer to God. You practice your life in the teachings of God, that makes you closer to God.

    Take the words out. Leave Church out of Government, leave Government out of Church. And that means I don't want my minister preaching which political party to vote for!

    September 10, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      that's perfect!

      September 10, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
    • ME II

      Hear Hear!
      The separation protects religion just as much as it protects non-religion.

      September 10, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
      • Johnny

        I'm afraid most Christians won't realize that until a religion besides Christianity is the majority in this country.

        September 10, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • Kevin Flynn

      That's a pretty limited concept of religion you have there, Brian. If one is religious, it's supposed to pervade everything he says, does and thinks; otherwise, it's just a kind of nicety going through the motions on Sunday.
      I like the idea that government and religion should work together. Don't forget also, the founders were far more concerned about government interfering in religion (as it does in England) than the other way around.

      September 10, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
      • ME II

        No wall has only one side.

        September 10, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
      • rdeleys

        Yes, but it should stop short of forcing your religion on people who quite clearly don't want any part of it. To do otherwise is to deny those people their right to be irreligious.

        September 10, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
      • tom

        Prior to Thomas Jefferson it was prohibited for a non-Christian to be governor of Virginia. I'd say that represents the churches intrusion in government far more than the other way around.

        September 10, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
      • Brian

        Kevin, as I stated, no one can take religion out of you. It is in your mind, it is in your actions. They can take the words out, but the schools are not telling kids they cannot pray, what they are saying is the school cannot lead prayer, cannot force kids to pray. They can take the words out.

        September 10, 2013 at 3:00 pm |
    • sam

      I agree.

      September 10, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
    • rdeleys

      Bravo!

      September 10, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
    • Aaron

      Best post of the day!!!!

      September 10, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
    • godisagirl

      From an Atheist to you. Thank you! This is exactly what we want. If you want to believe in a god, it's your right to. It's also my right to not believe. Keep them separate so that no religion ever has the power in government that a theocracy would acheive.

      September 10, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
    • try again

      ...you're not an atheist but you must not be a Christian either – the teachings of JESUS are how you get closer to and try to know God!

      September 10, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
      • Brian

        I stand corrected it should have said Jesus.

        September 10, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
  20. tom

    As an atheist I would never suggest replacing "under God" with "under no God". I could easily understand how that would offend the believers. Why is it so difficult for them to grasp how "under God" could be offensive to non-believers? Removing any reference is neutral, which is where the government should be on this issue.

    September 10, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
    • Hey! You!

      Stop making sense!

      September 10, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
    • Eric

      Freedom of religion is not the same as endorsing religion. I'm all for freedom of religion. I'm a little horrified that in America the Freedom of Religion act for Native American's was not signed until 1978 under President Jimmy Carter. However, no one should be made to feel like the refusal to recite a pledge espousing a belief in any god is unpatriotic. I'm a veteran and I'm also an atheist. My grandfather was an atheist in the Navy during WWII. We are marginalizing our very patriotic service members and citizens alike when we put the words under god in our pledge when those people do not believe in a god, are secular, and truly believe that what makes this country so great is not only separation of church and state, but also the freedom to believe or not believe in whatever one wishes. We are effectively undermining that separation of church and state when we allow things like this to occur. How many are aware that the bible is currently taught in many public schools? How many are aware that their religious text is not being taught in public schools? We need to bring back true separation of church and state before our country is further divided.

      September 10, 2013 at 3:05 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.