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. AtheistFools


    September 9, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
    • Tim

      Who knows what this fool is agreeing with.

      September 9, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
  2. karthurhyer

    Belief in God and belief in country are not related.

    September 9, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
  3. QS

    Out of curiosity, in which "god" do we supposedly place our trust?

    Unless and until religious people can acknowledge and accept the fact that "god" is simply an abstract concept subject to the preferences of each individual, we will continue opposing anything and everything they want to slap their "god" trademark on.

    September 9, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
    • me_2

      I vote the Beer God

      September 10, 2013 at 11:34 am |
  4. DocBlogger

    Fox viewers are like frog in a well.

    September 9, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
  5. Da Jeebus

    This Faux News talking head was the spokesman for the Bush administration.

    Basically she spent her days trying to justify Iraq and other colossal boondoggles.

    If she believes in "God", her behavior doesn't reflect that belief.

    September 9, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
  6. whitepine

    I wonder does God really care? How is God going to treat us differently than other countries? Italy should be safe and prosperous since St. Peter is there. Jesus lived in Israel for 33 years but the Romans continued to rule the Jews and did he improve the life of people there?

    September 9, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
    • guy

      Probably not, just gotta keep living like decent people and move on

      September 9, 2013 at 7:04 pm |
  7. JJ

    Shut your piehole, Dana. "Under God" was never part of anything in this country's government until 1955, and it doesn't belong in anything in government. Don't like it? Tough. Pack your bag and leave. Nobody cares what you think about that.

    September 9, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
  8. Lovecrafty

    MATT 18:3 "And said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

    Why? Because children believe in anything! Sorry people with IQ's higher than your shoe size! Unless you shut down the brain and believe in Santa, err I mean God, you don't get to go to Heaven.

    September 9, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
    • JJ

      Fideism is not a philosophy for life. It's a genetic defect. Deal with it.

      September 9, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
  9. Journey

    In my experience, and at the risk of sounding maybe a little intolerant, you really need to take atheists for what they are. Most of these people bash Christianity and its time tested precepts and then go and pray and read the bible when nobody is looking, they hide it under their bed at night. Sort of like that guy everyone knows who hates gay people...but secretly...

    Same principal applies to a lot of people on this blog.

    September 9, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
    • sam

      In my experience, and at the risk of sounding maybe a little intolerant, you really need to take Christians for what they are. Most of these people bash gays, non-whites, non-Christians, and anything that doesn't come straight out of the bible, then go and play with the gay sex toys they hide under their beds at night.

      How do you like that? No? Doesn't ring true, feels unfair?

      September 9, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
    • Observer

      Keep dreaming.

      September 9, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      Sorry you're quite wrong. I don't know of anyone who would claim to not believe and then hide a belief...what purpose would that serve? Christianity sadly is far more popular than Atheists. In fact you'll find many disbelievers amongst believers due to the potential consequences of admitting disbelief. The Clergy Project is a prime example of that.

      September 9, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
    • Da Jeebus

      You have no clue what you are talking about.

      Do you ever step out of your fact-free protective bubble?

      September 9, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
    • Mary Christmas

      Journey, you are hilarious. Unintentionally so, but hilarious.

      I am an atheist. I promise you I do not pray. And I read the bible once. It's utter schlock. I'll never open it again. Life is far too short to read crap.

      September 9, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
    • The Reverend

      You are a ...hmm, begins with an 'R', ends with a 'd', and has 'etar' in the middle.

      September 9, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
    • brian

      Yes atheists tend to actually know the bible very well. It's called not being ignorant and having beliefs based on reason and study.

      September 9, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
      • Marcus Aurelius

        Once again, most atheist subscribe to faith as fiideism. But then again, obviously they are superior intellects to Decartes, Aquinas, Augustine or Aristotle. I think I know, therefore I know. Enjoy your hubris.....

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

      Atheism is merely lack of religious belief. There's nothing wrong with that, exactly because there's nothing wrong with religious belief itself. Because the United States was built on equality–if the US government starts referencing religion, they are obligated to fairly consider ALL religions. In this case the phrase "under God" is offensive, just as an anti-Christian slogan in the pledge would draw likewise Christian criticism.

      What part of that do people disagree with, because it seems unclear to me.

      September 9, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
    • me_2


      Stop Bogarting the good stuff....we all want a hit or 2 of what you are smoking

      September 10, 2013 at 11:37 am |
  10. Blood of Christ

    You should first seek the help of a trained mental health professional before expecting other people to pledge allegiance to your imaginary sky daddy.

    September 9, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
    • AtheistFools

      The only people who needs medical help for mental illness are atheists.

      September 9, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
      • The Reverend

        Says the genius who cannot form a proper sentence...

        September 9, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
  11. No one

    What about instead of saying under god people say allahu akbar?

    September 9, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
  12. Joseph L.

    Perino's comment was ignorant, immature, arrogant, insulting, and pure bigotry......and I'm not an atheist.

    September 9, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
  13. Al

    I understand where the American Humanist Association's coming from. But I think these groups get overly buthurt unnecessarily. Anti-religion groups went out of their way to make a Marine Corps fighter squadron change its name (the squadron was called the Crusaders). Where were they when the Navy fighter squadrons Devil's Disciples and Satan's Kittens were around? Plus "God" can mean different things to different people. I think it's important to consider that we are not totally in control of our fates and that there are powers in this universe beyond our control that can determine our outcomes.

    September 9, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
    • Al

      Right, "God" can mean different things to different people. But, what about those of us who reject the idea of a god altogether?> Why must we either acknowledge one in order to take part of patriotic ceremonies everyone else takes part in?

      September 9, 2013 at 7:05 pm |
    • AtheistFools

      Atheists are nothing else than a bunch of cry babies.

      September 9, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
      • The Reverend

        Still struggling to form a proper sentence, I see...

        September 9, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
        • Athy

          That's probably as close as he's going to get to a proper sentence, Reverend.

          September 9, 2013 at 7:41 pm |
  14. Apple Bush

    Can you imagine all of the creepy, perverted things the Congressman do?

    September 9, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
    • me_2

      no worse then what those religious teachers do to children

      September 10, 2013 at 11:40 am |
  15. Bishop Hairy Palms

    When I look around at the state of this world, I see no evidence of an all-powerful "God".

    If "God" exists at all, he/she either isn't all-powerful, or isn't all-good.

    September 9, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
    • me_2

      Forevr and ever AMEN

      September 10, 2013 at 11:41 am |
  16. SoCalFreedom

    It is sad, and fundamentally wrong, that our carefully written Pledge that used to be a proud statement that all Americans could affirm was co-opted for a political agenda in the 1950s. When "under God" was added, it effectively negated the following claim of an indivisible nation by dividing our citizens into believers and non-believers. The Pledge is no longer a statement of American patriotism, but is now ergo facto a statement of religious belief. It was just perfect before and did not alienate anyone. Now we have to ask to remove a statement of religious faith that makes religious people feel like they're denying their deity. Removing, or not including, 'under God' in the Pledge may feel like a slight to one's beliefs, but it is not the same as professing a lie. On the other hand, leaving it in there forces many patriotic Americans to do just that. It's not fair that it was added in, and now it just makes everyone feel bad trying to fix something that should never have happened.

    September 9, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
    • sam

      Even better, the unhinged faction of society thinks it's some kind of war on religion.

      September 9, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
      • QS

        That's not saying much though....simply making a statement of logic and reason to a religious person makes them think their beliefs are under attack!

        Which really should be their first clue....they consider reason and logic to be enemies of their beliefs while hiding behind the excuse of "it's called faith" to justify their total reliance and dependence on superst.ition.

        September 9, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
  17. lmc3

    Ms Perino is correct...If you do not like American tradition, you can go live where tradition is more to your liking. Personally, I learned the pledge before the words "under God" were added and have always had difficulty remembering to say it at the correct time. So far, no one has accused me of treason or disrespect when I forget. As for the people who have difficulty saying "under God" because of personal belief that there is no God, then just don't say it or don't say the pledge at all if you do not feel allegiance to this country or it's traditions. Don't be a hypocrite, just show some respect for what the majority of citizens are willing to declare.

    September 9, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
    • .

      "Don't be a hypocrite, just show some respect for what the majority of citizens are willing to declare."

      Sure worked out for Hitler....be a good sheep.

      September 9, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
    • SoCalFreedom

      Why should the Pledge only be true for the majority of Americans when it was true for ALL Americans before? How many oaths and pledges do you make that you only mean 90% of. Oh yes, 50% divorce rate in the U.S... Guess we're used to lying.

      September 9, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
      • Marcus Aurelius

        You should start working to get "God" off of all money too. Perhaps take every thing ever minted and printed and put a stick note over it so it doesn't offend.

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

      Oh boy, I'm getting the popcorn out for this one.

      September 9, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
      • Diaz

        You get the popcorn, I'll be taking a crap over top of a fan that is on high...pointed in the general direction of this stupid discussion.

        September 9, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
    • molosar

      Freedom of religion also includes freedom from religion. From what I have seen organized religion is filled with swindlers, liars, cheaters, and hypocrites.

      September 9, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
    • Matt

      Ms Perino makes an excellent point about the validity of majority-rule in a society run by a representative democracy. What she did not mention (and I'm sure it was only an oversight... no one would intentionally leave it out) was that our country specifically provides for majority rule only when the rights of the minority are not violated. While the use of this term in our Pledge of Aliegance may not speicifcally voilate anyone's rights, it violates a mentality. A "letter of the law" versus "spirit of the law argument." I am very proud to live in a country that encourages impassioned public conversation. My wish is that that passion could be turned toward logic and reason. Ms Perino- I thank you for your input and your stance.

      September 9, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
    • Jericho

      Hey, the American was changed, and peoiple are supposed to swallow your version of it because it includes "under God" now? Want a theocracy? Move to Iran. Tradition, my ass.

      September 9, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
    • JJ

      The words "under god" have nothing to do with tradition, it is has to do with religious intolerance and chumps who should never have set foot on Capitol Hill. Thankfully, those mistakes can be erased, with extreme prejudice.

      September 9, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
      • guy

        It became tradition when the McCarthy era ended and the verbiage stayed for more than half of the pledge's period of existence

        September 9, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
    • doobzz

      Freedom of and from religion is not a tradition, as you call it. It is part of the First Amendment. It is a basic right that citizen enjoys.

      "Don't be a hypocrite, just show some respect for what the majority of citizens are willing to declare."

      What is more hypocritical than saying everyone has freedom of religion, as long as it's the majority's religion?

      September 9, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      " just show some respect for what the majority of citizens are willing to declare."

      We're not talking about adults here. We're talking about children who are coerced into reciting the pledge everyday.

      September 9, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
    • kevinfreund

      American tradition? My family has been in America since the early 1700's. How long has yours?

      September 9, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
  18. Extremophil

    If Dana Perino doesn't like Atheists, she doesn't have to live here.

    September 9, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
  19. Clarence Alexander

    Get a little perspective, folks. She was making an off-hand response that has become a cliché in our society. "Well, if they don't like, they can leave." (said in response to almost anyone who opposes almost anything!.)

    September 9, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      One hopes news commentators would avoid such clichés.

      She expressed an intolerant opinion. She deserves what she gets. Having said that, the woman at the end of the segment (Kimberly Guilfoyle perhaps?) was nastier and even more dismissive (and ironically so) and her comments deserve more opprobrium than Dan Perino's.

      September 9, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
  20. Bishop Hairy Palms

    Any so-called "God" that needs a mindless Faux News talking head to defend them, is pretty pathetic.

    September 9, 2013 at 6:47 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.