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. Doc Ock

    Ahh Fox News (Shouldn't it be called Fox Opinions or Editorials?) Some news anchor is upset over a challenge to remove "Under God" from the Pledge of allegiance? A phrase put in to existence in 1954 due to cold war fears. "Under God" wasn't in the pledge to begin with so what's the problem? I could see people being upset if a group wanted it to change it to "Under Allah", or "Under Buddha", or "Under the Aliens from Scientology"; however they are simply arguing that pledging allegiance under any form of "God" does not respect the millions of Americans who are from of all different kinds of backgrounds. Atheists are merely one group, there are many other groups who have their own interpretation of "God". this idiot from Fox news is basically saying, If you are from Asia, India, the Middle East and you have not converted to Christianity then get out". Let the phrase go, it's 2013.

    September 10, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
    • M

      You mean, "They decide (then), They Report."

      September 10, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
      • Doc Ock


        September 10, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
  2. Chuck

    Atheists, are only good at destroying poeples hopes and dreams.

    Worthless to civilization

    September 10, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
    • M

      I would think you would want to know what the world truly is, so you could help solve the challenges we face. Hiding behind religion won't help that happen.

      September 10, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
    • sam

      I doubt you've ever met one.

      September 10, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
      • M

        With what, 5% of the population being atheist, he's definitely met one and not event known it.

        September 10, 2013 at 7:13 pm |
        • sam

          Yeah, I doubt one would admit it to him if he behaves off the net the way he's behaving here.

          September 10, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
    • Visara

      Nah...we're just smarter and more logical. If you want to believe in fairy tales and myths like snakes talking and a senior citizen fitting two of every animal on the planet onto a boat, go ahead. Saying "One nation, under God" just confirms that humans will believe anything they're told and anything they read. It's proof we're still not moving forward in our mental evolution and are still being held back by buying into ridiculous things like gods, devils and prophets. We've been on Earth for a long time and should have moved past all that nonsense by now.

      September 10, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM

      Worthless? There have been many Atheists that have contributed to society for centuries. You just want to deny it because most of the advances in society go against your religion.

      September 10, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
    • Chris

      Ah, yes. Those Atheists like Thomas Edison are worthless to civilization.

      September 10, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
  3. steve-0

    Don't like your taxes, your President, gays, blacks???You don't have to live here either-

    September 10, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
  4. Adam Legget

    If this were proposed as "return the Pledge to its original form, before it was messed with in the 50s" then it would be easier to pass.

    September 10, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
  5. QS

    The pledge is obsolete as it is a leftover remnant of a bygone era.

    I will stand for the national anthem, but I don't understand how refusing to remove my hat shows disrespect to my country.

    And no flag pin should ever be needed by anybody in order to somehow prove their love of country.

    “Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism – how passionately I hate them!”

    – Einstein

    September 10, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
    • George

      Yeah, forcing kids to stand and pledge allegiance EVERY DAY reminds one of those paranoid totalitarian governments. Why do we make our kids do it every day?

      September 10, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
  6. Islesfan

    Congratulations Dana for speaking your mind and not cowering in the face of adversity! What everyone here seems to miss is her point!Over 90% of Americans believe in God in some form or another.An overwhelming majority.!But the ruling class have decided to side with the minority when it comes to issues like this. If you don't like the term "under God" simply exercise your right to free speech and don't say it. But don't take my right (and the rights of over 90% of the population) away.If you are so confident yours is the right way!Put it on a ballot and let the people vote on it.!Stop wasting everyone's tax dollars trying cases like this in the courts! The majority has been silent for too long! Way to go Dana!!!

    September 10, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
    • doobzz

      Look up tyranny of the majority, and next time, pay attention in civics class.

      September 10, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
      • Islesfan
        September 10, 2013 at 8:57 pm |
    • QS

      If YOU'RE so confident let's put the Freedom of Religion clause up for a vote....or are you worried that your so-called 90% majority (false stat btw) would actually put American principles before their religious beliefs?

      September 10, 2013 at 7:05 pm |
      • Islesfan

        The Bill Of Rights isn't on trial here.No need to vote.If it did I am POSITIVE that Freedom Of Religion would still be there.And no it is not a false stat.It is an OVERWHELMING majority!

        September 10, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
    • Observer


      If skipping words looks like a good idea, then let's change it to "under God or not under God" and then you can choose.

      Fair to you or are you just pushing your religion on others?

      September 10, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
      • Islesfan

        Let's just leave it as written. No need to change anything

        September 10, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
        • Johnny

          We should leave it as it was originally written, or do away with it altogether.

          September 11, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      ' But don't take my right (and the rights of over 90% of the population) away.'

      what right would you actually have taken away by not having god in the pledge?

      September 11, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
    • toastygod

      Also, "under God" doesn't represent polytheistic religions (such as Hinduism, the world's most populus religion) so your overwhelming 90% majority that falls under the beliefs expressed by this phrase is diminished even further.

      September 17, 2013 at 2:33 am |
  7. manny

    All these people should find something better to do with their lives instead of BSing the whole time. You can move to North Korea where you'll find plenty of atheists . Please just stop pestering everybody.

    September 10, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
    • sam

      I agree, christians should quit bugging everyone.

      September 10, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
    • doobzz

      Gee, I'm so sorry that my insistence that Christians obey the law and keep their mythology out of our public schools and out of civil law are bothering you.

      September 10, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
      • doobzz

        "is" not "are"

        September 10, 2013 at 7:04 pm |
    • John

      I have never had a Atheist knock on my door trying to convert me. I have had to deal with countless waves of door to door prophets of a fuller brush god.

      September 10, 2013 at 7:41 pm |
  8. vc blackwell

    AS an agnostic, I don't know why atheists won't live & let live. It's not hard to live free of religion if that's your choice. But for those of faith, expressions of it is.. It's easy to ignore an inanimate object; a plague, a statue, a scene, a written word. A moment of silence while a prayer is offered provides an opportunity to take a breath. What would be the next offense- a church? Obviously, the founding fathers thought freedom to express religion – or not- was important. I hope (if not pray) that it continues to be.

    September 10, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      It's not easy to ignore children being taught religious beliefs as science. It's not easy to ignore believers pushing to change to law to be based upon what they believe – I doubt that you would be thrilled if sharia law were being pushed onto you.

      September 10, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
    • doobzz

      Are you in favor of having the children who go to public schools, paid for with taxpayer dollars, be taught that humans were "created" with mud and fairy spit in a science class?

      Are you in favor of children being forced to say a pledge that doesn't acknowledge their individual rights as Americans?

      September 10, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
    • sybaris

      Ask the tens of thousands of dead innocent Iraqi's how easy it is to ignore inanimate objects (bombs) dropped on them because your President believed his god told him that invading Iraq was the right thing to do.

      September 10, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
      • Dippy

        Iraqis, not Iraqi's.

        September 10, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'It's not hard to live free of religion if that's your choice.'

      which country are you living in because its not the US with a statement like that.

      September 11, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
  9. pizzed

    Yes we do need to live here ms. perino, that is why this country as founded, to protect the little guy from bullies like you. it does not always work but when it does people like you never win. phuchoff ho

    September 10, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
  10. santex

    Your God may be money, or the government, or the ACLU or the Christian-Judaeo-Islamic God, but everyone has a God whom they worship whether they wish to acknowledge it or not.

    September 10, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      No. Atheists do not worship a god – that's the definition; and you can't equate organizations with religions. One may support the Sierra Club for example but that isn't worship.

      September 10, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
    • Jethro

      Obviously there is a difference between metaphorical "gods" and belief in an actual deity.

      September 10, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
    • doobzz

      I worship no deity.

      September 10, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
    • Jess

      When it comes to religious freedom, "under god" sends kids the message that you need to believe in a god. That is what I believed for years. As I became an adult I realized that a god is only a necessary belief for people who can't take responsibility for their own lives, need something like that to believe in to make their lives feel worthwhile or for people who for whatever reason need to be told what is "right" and what is "wrong" according to stories based on what people believed way before any of our lifetimes. It is an endorsement by the U.S. govt since it is in a required pledge in public schools for the U.S.

      Side note; there are so many awesome people on here, love you all lol.

      SN2: Dippy, get a life.

      September 10, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
    • Athy

      Wrong again, santex. But keep trying.

      September 10, 2013 at 7:34 pm |
  11. Jose Sellman

    If they don't want to say "Under God",, more power to them. I think it ridiculous that people say the term anyway. We are not a Nation under God,, we are a Nation under many Gods. Why should we have to pledge servitude to the Judeo-Christian God? The US was never a Christian nation,, was not founded on the bible. Under God was pushed into the pledge because a factional order )Knights of Comumbus) pushed for it amid fears and using it as a scare tactic in 1954. If it was so patriotic to say "Under God" in the first place,,, it would have been in the ORIGINAL version while said with the right hand raised in a "Roman" salute much like Hitler adopted for his version of the salute. Learn the history of the pledge before assuming a position on it.

    September 10, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
  12. cwiz

    Spot on. They are an extreme minority. Everyone complains about having rights so much it seems they want a complete anarchy. This is just one of a billion 'splitting hairs' issues that are a waste of energy. If you don't like it, don't say it. And if you're too weak-minded to handle that, I'll deliver you a box of tissues free of charge.

    September 10, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      So you'd be OK if it were changed to Vishnu instead? As it is such a trivial matter it can't hurt to use any god, right?

      September 10, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
    • sam

      'one nation under Allah' has a nice ring to it...right?

      September 10, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
  13. Eric

    I think all these people are buttholes and should be spending time on other stuff that actually brings value to this country.

    September 10, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
    • vc blackwell

      You know what, Eric? I think you're so ooo right. With all the serious & real problems that are going on, we're looking like silly little brats, bickering over something which is accomplishing nothing other then blah, blah, blah! You're right..

      September 10, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
    • QS

      And I will dismiss your apathy on the topic just as easily as you dismiss the very real importance of it.

      September 10, 2013 at 7:32 pm |
    • EuphoriCrest

      Translation: "I am a judgmental jerk who thinks he should be in charge of what others do, so they will do whatever I deem to be important." Narcissism is never pretty.

      September 10, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
  14. abbydelabbey

    Fox apparently has NEVER read the US Bill of Rights - except for the 2nd Amendment.

    September 10, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
  15. birch please

    “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. Thank you very, very much for letting us little kids live here. It really, really was nice of you. You didn’t have to do it. And it’s really not freaky that us little, little kids mindlessly recite this anthem every day and pledge their life to a government before they’re old enough to really think about what they’re saying. This is not a form of brainwashing. This is not a form of brainwashing. This is not a form of brainwashing. This is really the greatest country in the whole world. All the other countries suck. And, if this country ever goes to war, as it often wants to do, I promise to help go and kill all the other countries’ kids. God bless Johnson & Johnson. God bless GE. God bless Citigroup. Amen.” -whitest kids

    September 10, 2013 at 6:46 pm |
  16. ppppp


    September 10, 2013 at 6:46 pm |
  17. Michael McOsker

    In my mind "under God" isn't the problem. It's the Pledge itself. This Country has been very good to me and to those in my family who came before me. It should go without saying that I love my Country and would be faithful to it. Why in the world should I or anyone else like me feel compelled to stand up and "prove it" to whatever boobs happen to be near me at a public event? The sort of fellow who would betray his country would find no difficulty reciting the Pledge, anyway.

    September 10, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
  18. GOD!

    Speaking as a third party on this............Really Now....I mean Really.......You can remove the Name.... But You will Never Forget!

    September 10, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      I'm pretty sure it would be easy to forget if believers stopped pushing it into the public arena; if it were removed from the lives and schools of impressionable children I suspect religion would go the way of other superstitions such as black cats, etc.

      September 10, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
    • doobzz

      Who are you? I forgot.

      September 10, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
  19. Mina

    So since when was it required that Americans had to be Christians? Or any other Abrahamic Religion for that matter. You're so busy worrying about people making sure to respect your beliefs that you forget to respect theirs. You may think that you're the "right one", but umm... newsflash: They think their the "right one"s too!

    September 10, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
    • Dippy

      Mina, it's "they're" not "their." And it's "ones", not "one"s". Grammar and punctuation were not your hot subjects in school, were they?

      September 10, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
      • yeahright

        For crying out loud, do you have anything to add to the topic being discussed, or do you just spend all day pointing out spelling errors?

        September 10, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
  20. thomas

    silly atheists...life is all there is and you are bitter and hateful....because you have no promise of tomorrow....such a meaningless existence, no hope, no promise.....despair has turned to anger and anger in to bitterness....so much vitriol.....it must suck to be you.....

    September 10, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
    • sam

      More delusional BS from someone already indoctrinated with it...

      September 10, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      I don't believe in a god. It doesn't follow that I'm therefore angry and bitter. I'm perfectly happy not believing in god.

      Your post however, sounded a bit terse. Are you angry?

      September 10, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
      • thomas

        I am not wasting my "meaningless existence" on trying to steal hope from other people.....i instead waste my "meaningful existence" on mocking "enlightened" folks that can not explain how matter came in to existence other than "BANG!" it was there....how foolish, of you to deny the existence of a creator....the whole earth is full of his glory...life is not an accident...you do have meaning and purpose....your eternity is not to be a puddle of primordial slime.....

        September 10, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
        • doobzz

          Neither am I. My existence isn't meaningless, and I don't treat others in a way that "steals their joy".

          Religious fundies let their own joy be stolen by swallowing the BS that they are worthless and somehow require "saving".

          September 10, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
        • I've changed

          Can't handle the truth eh?Need an imaginary protector eh?Pathetic.

          September 10, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
        • sam

          False hope; nutty fairy tales; the insane idea that you're some special chosen snowflake...I'll pass.

          September 10, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
        • EnjaySea

          What is hope, thomas, if it's just invented hope?

          September 10, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
      • EnjaySea

        I'm sorry Thomas, but making up a story about the meaning of life doesn't actually give your life meaning. It only tricks you into thinking that your life now has meaning. But it's still just a story.

        I take my meaning from the actual life that I'm living, here and now, on earth, not from an imagined scenario involving angels and devils, and gods and goddesses, and grace and sin, and heaven and hell. Lovely stories, but they have no bearing on my life.

        But thanks for trying.

        September 10, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
        • Chris

          Let's say, for instance, that you're right EnjaySea. Let's say that there isn't anything more after death than you being buried in the ground. That means that you benefit from Christian's like me who are trying to live a better life through the Word of God. What is your net gain/loss?? Nothing, other than Christians whose purpose is to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. Is that a bad thing? I can't really see a negative in that scenario for you.

          Now, let's say, for the sake of argument, we Christians are right... That there is a life after death, a real place called heaven and hell where you, me and everyone else will be at the end of time. Wouldn't you want to be on the right side of that equation? Just something to consider

          September 10, 2013 at 10:20 pm |
        • EnjaySea

          Chris, what if it turns out Zeus is the real God, and you've been wrong all along? Shouldn't you be worshiping him just in case?

          Just something to consider.

          September 11, 2013 at 11:40 am |
        • Johnny

          If heaven is full of Christians then I would choose hell every single time.

          September 11, 2013 at 11:40 am |
        • EnjaySea

          Chris informed me that just having Christians around is a great thing, using the following argument:

          "...you benefit from Christian's like me who are trying to live a better life through the Word of God. What is your net gain/loss?? Nothing."

          He asked me what is the net gain/loss, then answered the question for me (thanks Chris) with the answer "nothing". May I answer the question Chris, instead of accepting your answer? That'd be great.

          What is the net loss? Christians trying to push prayer in school (the schools my children go to). Christians imposing their moral beliefs on society by campaigning against gay marriage and abortion. Christians butting into the government of my country and trying to ensure that all politicians follow their agenda. And branching out from Christianity to religion in general: bomb vests, airplanes flying into buildings, beheadings, kidnappings (including the kidnapping of my own brother).

          That's far from "nothing" Chris.

          September 11, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • Karen

      Er...no...but thanks for your concern.

      September 10, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
    • Jake

      What sucks more, to live in a world of delusion and believe in fantasies that will never come true? Or to live in reality and enjoy and appreciate the time we have on this planet? If you believe it's better to live a delusional life, that's fine, but then you might as well just inject yourself with drugs and live in a euphoric daze. By definition, atheists chose the moral path instead.

      September 10, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      but but but... thinking i'm going to a cloudy place I know almost nothing about gives my life meaning... doesn't it?

      September 10, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
    • Fred Nerfl

      You clearly don't know any atheists if you really believe that's our mindset. But you obviously believe other fantasies already, so what's one more?

      September 10, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
    • doobzz

      Sorry to burst your bubble, but I don't feel any of that. Thanks for your loving Christian concern though.

      September 10, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
    • ThaGerm

      Wow, step back a moment and read your own hate-filled words. BTW, wars have never been started between atheists, more people have been murdered in the name of God than any other single reason, so you may want to re-evaluate your stance there slim. Also, I am not an atheist, but I don't let others do the thinking for me.

      September 10, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
    • Risen Zombie

      Actually it is incredibly liberating to stand up and walk through life without the shackles of religion hindering my ability to stand, move and think. In your case, the shackles must be around your neck and appear to be cutting off the supply of oxygen to your brain. Silly, smug religious zealot.

      September 10, 2013 at 6:53 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.