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. ed

    Not that America isn't battered and abused enough by outsiders, we now have arrogant atheists gnawing away on what is left. If they are so sensitive that they can't see or hear the word "God", they better take a long look at what their real problem is. In this country we allow every religion, evidently even those that commit Sharia Law, but arrogant atheists think we should only cater to them. Get over yourselves and become decent human beings, instead you make jerks of yourselves, trying to make us act and think like you. I'm atheist and feel deep shame for atheists who act like arrogant boobs throwing their "rights" around. Be proud we had founders who followed their "God" and made a country you can act like jerks in. Go to any other country and act like this, you would be back here keeping your mouths shut.

    September 15, 2013 at 8:54 pm |

      The founding fathers were not all christian (some were deists) and a large part of the reason for establishing the first amendment. As an atheist it should be upsetting how religions oppress women and treat them as substandard, and that Texas is trying to disguise creationism as ‘intelligent design’ and publish the nonsense in science textbooks for public school students. If religious nonsense goes uncontested you will see more and more infringements on not only your rights, but your children as well. People speaking out against religion have been paramount in overturning laws that but only a few years ago prohibited int*rracial marriage, prohibited all positions except the missionary position (yes, you read correctly), and the legal right to teach evolution in the classroom.

      September 15, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
      • Mindforms

        Actually most were Deists and, they very carefully worded the phrase in the 1st Amendment. Note it reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." It does not read "establishment of a certain religion" or "establishment of a state religion" or any variation implying any single religion over another. It reads "establishment of religion," period. Any religion, meaning this government is not in the religion business.

        September 16, 2013 at 6:18 am |

      Ed, your notion that atheist cater to sharia law is mi*guided. As an atheist, the thing that I find most disturbing about the religious is their attempts to enact religious based laws and policies on the general public, which similar to sharia law,

      September 15, 2013 at 10:00 pm |
    • lerianis

      Yet another strawman. What you fail to acknowledge is that our problem is with 'god' being enshrined into laws and being allowed on public property that is meant to be for ALL of us, not just the religious. You want your religion in churches and your homes? Fine..... but keep it there!

      September 15, 2013 at 10:28 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Thank you for your hateful, ignorant rant, Ed. You rather eloquently prove why our Founding Fathers deliberately separated church from state. Your religious bigotry has no place in a country where personal freedom is one of the defining ideals.

      September 16, 2013 at 12:36 am |
    • bla

      Which founders were following their "god" Ed?

      Most of them were agnostic you dolt.

      September 16, 2013 at 9:26 am |
  2. stevie68a

    We are in a New Age, and religion is part of the old. Get over it.

    September 15, 2013 at 8:28 pm |
  3. Hector

    I'm not pledging or swearing to any god & you can't make me. I, for two, am tired of all the Christians with their lies, knocking on doors & talking about their religious pilgrimages.

    September 15, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
  4. Vincent Fournier

    After reading some of the comments on here I am starting to believe in the dumbing down of America.

    September 15, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
  5. sldimond

    I believe in freedom of speech, freedom of beliefs and freedom to live life the way one wants. If you disagree, 'you don't have to live here".

    September 15, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • william mason

      Si­nce I st­ar­t­ed fre­­el­anci­­ng I'v­e be­en br­in­gin­g i­n $­9­0 bu­ck­­s/h… I s­i­­t a­­­t ho­m­e a­n­­d i a­m do­in­g m­­y wo­rk fr­om m­y la­pt­op. Th­℮ be­st th­ing i­s th­a­t i g­­­et mo­­r­e ti­­me t­­o sp­­e­­­nt wi­th m­y fa­mily a­n­d wi­th m­y ki­ds a­nd i­n th­­e sa­me ti­me i ca­n e­a­rn en­oug­h t­o su­pp­­ort them... Y­ou c­a­n d­o i­t t­oo. St­­art her­e-­-­-­-­>g­i­­g­­2­­5­.­­­ℴ­

      September 15, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
  6. kati

    I feel so bad for obnoxious, I don't no what 2 do.

    September 15, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • katilet's pay for your daughter's lifelong hospitalization for the under hod torture we

      Rest of her life. Does she still have nightmares?

      September 15, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • kati let's pay for your daughter's lifelong hospitalization

      Wait. What hospital? Catholic? Jewish? What if by etc doctor loves jeeeeeeeeebus?

      September 15, 2013 at 10:26 am |
  7. jamie

    Move to Iran, Iraq or any other Muslim country and state your atheist views to them. You will be so glad to be in the USA once again.

    September 15, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • coby7016

      Why can't the Christians move to their "heaven" now and leave the earth for atheists?

      September 15, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
      • lerianis


        September 15, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
      • lerianis

        Probably because their imaginary 'god' says that if they suicide, they are automatically damned. Which is insanity in the extreme, unless he WANTS people to suffer on this planet and is therefore evil.

        September 15, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
    • Emily

      You can be an atheist in a country where the majority are muslims. Its just like being a muslim in USA. You will be noticed, you will be hated and you will be mistreated. Now now, how does that sound?

      By the way, Saudi isn't a Muslim country, it has its own "Islamic" values embedded in their laws which are called Wahhabism. As for Iran, it isn't a muslim country either, they follow what the Ayatullah forced upon them. There is a difference. Want to talk about a muslim country? We don't have one here today, but you are welcome to search in history and take a look at for example the Ottomans. See how they treated non-muslims, being jews, christians and pagans or even atheists. Take a look... open a damn book.

      September 15, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
    • tallulah13

      No thank you. I would rather stay in the country of my birth, where religion was deliberately separated from state in our founding documents and where all religious beliefs (even non-belief) are equally protected. You and your religion are nothing more than anti-American bullies, trying to place your personal god over the law of the land. I doubt you have the decency to be ashamed.

      September 16, 2013 at 12:41 am |
  8. Richard

    I totally agree with that last woman on the program. The small minded, selfish people that are trying to force their beliefs on others should simply stop. And the first step is to remove 'under god' from the pledge of allegiance.

    September 15, 2013 at 1:27 am |
    • kati

      Amen bro. That will b a great first step. Hey, I no. Let's arrest every NFL player who prays in public or mentions jeeeeeeeeeeebus. Give em life

      September 15, 2013 at 9:49 am |
      • Steve

        oh really, we shouldn't care about a minority?
        what about black people? they're a minority, was is selfish for them to ask to remove segregation in schools. And notice 1:20 how he immediately says it doesn't matter, it does matter, "under god" was added to the pledge and "in god we trust" was added to money in 1954. i don't see how it's patriotic if the founding fathers didn't add the words when this country was founded

        September 15, 2013 at 10:53 am |
  9. Rickmess

    Which God?

    September 14, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
    • kati


      September 15, 2013 at 4:33 am |
    • bla

      Whichever one encourages you to be an ignorant, self-absorbed, arrogant waste of carbon and lets you engage in hypocrisy as often as possible.

      September 16, 2013 at 9:18 am |
  10. brad

    Wow, women sure love their lord. Women are more moral than men, that's why more of them are christians. By the way ladies – read once in a while – "under god" was something that 1950's era republican Eisenhower threw into the pledge to denote our separation from communism, which was all the rage back then. Has nothing to do with your jesus.

    September 14, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
    • lerianis

      You kidding? BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Yeah, you have got to be kidding. Women are not more 'moral' than men. In fact, in terms of morality, men and women are pretty much equal when you are talking about TRUE morality and not the personal likes and dislikes of someone 1K+ years ago put into a 'holy book' that is about as holy as a runny pile of dog doo.

      September 14, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
  11. Elton

    "Congress added the words "under God" in 1954"
    Congress passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

    So, what's the point???

    September 14, 2013 at 8:20 pm |
    • Will&Ate

      How about nullifying anything added on or after 1/1/54 😉

      September 14, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
    • Rob

      What's the point? The people who want the phrase kept in the pledge make it sound like it was always there, they try to convince everyone that the founding fathers created a Christian state, and that if you aren't Christian, as Perino stated, you should leave if you disagree with it. God was not always on our money, God was not always in our pledge, so who exactly is forcing who's beliefs on whom?

      September 15, 2013 at 9:55 am |
  12. Mailin Wong

    Gosh these Americans are stupid! Constantly locked up between their guns, bibles and patriotic feelings...

    September 14, 2013 at 8:14 pm |
    • sldimond

      Well put. I guess being american means you get to tell people what to think and how to live while hiding behind your own beliefs that you state but don't live.

      September 15, 2013 at 10:11 am |
  13. S. Falls

    Can we be tired of Faux Mews' knuckle-dragging ignorance, bigotry and sheep-following mentality??

    September 14, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • L. G.

      Wow... talk about a hateful comment. (sorry but there is no way to say it otherwise and no way to back-peddle out of that one).

      September 14, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
      • lerianis


        September 14, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
      • lerianis

        Sometimes the most hateful comments are the most accurate.... this is a case of that.

        September 14, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
      • Earthling

        You spelled "accurate" wrong.

        September 16, 2013 at 12:22 am |
      • bla

        The truth isn't pretty sunshine.

        September 16, 2013 at 9:15 am |
    • Arkie

      Oh yeah lets just have MSNBC for our news source.. Far and balanced, that "news" organization.

      September 15, 2013 at 10:45 am |
      • Mike

        I recommend–before your prejudices kick in–that you view Aljaeera TV. They're more fair and balanced than any other channel on the TV.

        September 15, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
  14. Dr E

    Honey u missed the WHOLE point of the article.

    September 14, 2013 at 9:45 am |
  15. Sara

    This religious bigotry will be the next piece of the religeous right's wall to crumble. They lost the anti-gay fight, and they will lose their fight to punish free thinkers in the public sphere.

    September 14, 2013 at 6:36 am |
  16. Derek

    Religion is the addictive poison from yesterday.

    It has no purpose now, unless you still believe in the easter bunny.

    September 14, 2013 at 1:23 am |
  17. Hockeystar

    So...she's tired of Athesists attempting to rid this from the pledge of alliegence, but she's not tired of Republicans trying to appeal Obamacare for the 300th time? Why hasn't she called out her fellow republican friends and tell them to leave the country if they don't like Obamacare?

    She couldnt' have picked a worse statement to say...she just sounds like an even bigger moron (if that is possible).

    I think this is a stupid topic to begin with though (being athesist myself). I just wouldn't say it...tell my kid not to say it (if that's the problem) or say it...knowing I don't believe in it...who cares? Everybody knows that, sadly, religion does play a part in major politics....even if it shouldn't. This little grievence isn't going to suddenly swing the governemt body into forgetting their religious beliefs, lol. That will only happen over time through voting and the publics perception on regligion changing.

    September 13, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
    • meej

      Unfortunately children are REQUIRED to say under god in school and on tests or else they are punished. They are required to sing religious songs if they want to be in the public school choir. They are forced to have the morning moment of silence which is actually time for prayer this should be done at home before kids get to school. I don't want to hear how poor our schools are when they waste time and money (staffing during the events and prayers) on religious indoctrination. Our school boards start meeting with prayers. Freedom from religion would be better for all children. Teach children about science, facts, and peace. Then , if they want to believe in fairy tales, at least they are educated properly.

      September 13, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
      • lerianis

        Not quite. I personally did not 'rise' for the pledge in school and I was not 'punished' for not doing so either. The one time a teacher tried to, I said "Do you really want to do this and have my parents come in, get angry at you, and state how you are trying to brainwash me to swear unwavering fealty to a country who I personally disagree with on various subjects?"

        She backed off.

        September 13, 2013 at 9:17 pm |
      • Meredith S.

        Concerning choirs, although there are some songs with religious connotations to them, (such as singing Christmas Carols, for instance), if they want to participate in the choir, they will sing whatever the program is. A parent who objects to this won't let their child participate.
        I do not know of one choir that is mandatory in PS. The majority are either volunteers, or are assembled by tryouts.

        As for the Pledge, if you don't want to have your child to recite it, a note to the school should be sufficient.

        September 13, 2013 at 9:40 pm |
      • Sara

        "Unfortunately children are REQUIRED to say under god in school and on tests or else they are punished."

        Not true. However, they are required to sit quietly and be identified as an unpatriotic outsider for not repeating the words.

        September 14, 2013 at 6:23 am |
        • Meredith S.

          So what do you think the answer is, Sara? Abolishing the Pledge completely (with or without the 'under God' in it)? Because that would be equally infringing on the rights of people who DO want to say it (with or without 'under God' in it), would it not?
          I don't believe abolishing the Pledge is the answer, either.

          September 14, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
        • Sara

          I don't think it's unreasonable or unconsti tutional for people to (optionally) recite allrgiance to the country they are living in. I did it here as a kid even before I was a citizen...it never seemed particulally wrong to be asked to support your country. The part that was obviously wrong, even to me at a young age, was that the monotheistic god was mentioned in a pledge for a secular country. That's just divisive.

          September 16, 2013 at 11:22 pm |
  18. Just the Facts Ma'am...

    Imagine if you will, that our secular society and our collective government are a giant canvas with bold letters that say:

    "This Canvas shall remain for all citizens benefit and therefore must remain neutral. For personal projects and individual freedoms please use the unlimited Canvas you will find at home."

    Now imagine that every religion is a different color of paint. Where should those paints be used? Should we take the giant canvas of government and paint a little yellow flower down in the lower corner of it? It's such a small thing really. I mean, there are even a lot of people who like yellow... but that misses the point, the Canvas is supposed to remain neutral and by allowing the yellow the canvas now tacitly approves of yellow at the expense of the other colors. So now blue needs to get on there, and red, and green, and orange and pink, and soon you find your nice supposedly neutral canvas all covered in a slimy brown...

    Just keep the colors at home and everyone can be happy.

    September 13, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
    • Sara

      I would expand this good analogy further and point out that their are three sets of canvases. There's one shared one, and the millions of home one's you describe. But there are also thousands of other open canvases accross the country on which as much religious paint can be used as desired. There are publishing houses, the internet, newpapers and private schools. There are privately owned billboards, and spaces that can be rented or borrowed from either private or public sources. There are churches and libraries and colleges. There are so many places that religion can express itself that the only possible reason for wanting to write your own all over the public canvas is domination. Any claim otherwise is disingenuous. If one want's one's own religion in the schools and pledge and money that person. are telling us that their interests come first. They can pretend whatever they want, but folks aren't going to fall for it much longer than they fell for describing anti-gay policies as "religious freedom" and "protecting marriage." It's time for the religious right to suck it up and accept that their decades of domination are over.

      September 14, 2013 at 6:50 am |
  19. Snow

    Well.. First amendment ensures something Fox anchors do not seem to understand. if they have problem with that, maybe they are the ones who should leave this country..

    September 13, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
  20. Sara

    I used to get upset when this was dredged up every few years. With the stranglehold of the Christian right in place since the early 70s, there was no hope and raising the issue just made things worse. I think we're finally coming close to the turning point, though, where this may do some good. We're almost back to the progress we were making 40 years ago.

    September 13, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
    • Meredith S.

      I don't think that a paid shill for Fox News is representaive of Christians.
      I believe in letting people believe (or not) as they please.
      That being said, this person did this to inflame public opinion, and did a fine job of it. I have noticed when Fox proclaims something as "unAmerican", it typically really isn't, and the ratings go up.
      Fox News isn't news.

      September 13, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
      • truthprevails1

        You represent the type of christian I can tolerate. It's nice to see someone so respectful of others beliefs/disbelief's.

        September 13, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
      • Meredith S.

        Thank you. I try to be respectful. Respect is becoming a scarce commodity these days, it seems.

        September 13, 2013 at 8:38 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.