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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. Donna Coles

    No atheist don't have to live here, but they have the right to live here. Just like Christians don't have to live here but have the same rights as atheist to do so

    September 19, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
  2. Chelle

    In this case, The Five are right. No one is forcing anyone to say the pledge. No one is forcing anyone to believe, but those who do believe and want to say the pledge, have every right to do so. I agree: if athiests do not like the religious undertones in America, they can get out if they so choose. They do not have a right to force non-belief on America, though. The overwhelming majority feel that way. So TFB, athiests!!

    September 19, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • lathebiosas

      Atheists are not trying to force non belief on anyone. They are just pointing out that America is founded on freedom of and from religion. Therefore, it is contradictory to that foundation for the State to add statements about God to it's currency and doctrines. Slavery was abolished in the United States. Would it be okay if the Government kept "just a few slaves"? No, I don't think so.
      No one is saying anyone can't be religious, Atheists are just saying the Goverment can't be religious.

      September 19, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Chelle assured us that: "No one is forcing anyone to say the pledge."

      Right, little elementary school children can easily sit down while all their peers are being indoctrinated, because of course, every child is eager to be ostracized and laughed at by the rest of the class.

      September 19, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
    • T Jensen

      Ah... that marvelous belief in "freedom of (MY) religion"... heartwarming.
      And exactly what does TFB mean? I've never heard a combination of words that would stand for... but I'm certain some fine, upstanding Christian like yourself can tell us all about it.
      Camden is right... you and people like you ARE the problem with So-called "Christianity" today. could you possibly be any more self-righteous or inconsiderate?
      Funnily enough, I'd still stand and fight for your right to worship as you wish... too bad you're too self involved to reciprocate.

      September 20, 2013 at 6:53 am |
      • lerianis

        True. We are not saying that they cannot worship as they please (though I think that it is honestly time that we start discouraging belief in the 'god' myth), we are just saying that they cannot enshrine their beliefs into law or have mentions of their beliefs in 'god' on government time.
        Just like the Founders of this nation said that was supposed to be verboten.

        September 20, 2013 at 11:28 am |
    • fireoasis

      I will be happy to say the pledge, or have my children say the pledge if we go back to how it was ORIGINALLY written. I LOVE my country and am happy to pledge loyalty to it, however I do not need my religion or yours for that matter interjected with a pledge that is supposed to be for the country. It starts, "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America".. it doesn't say I have to be christian to do this. Or believe in ANY god for that matter.

      September 21, 2013 at 1:43 am |
  3. Gret

    God Bless Dana Perino!!

    September 19, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Well, now that you say that, I'm sure the creator of the universe will stop creating new worlds, and take a little break in his day to give extra concessions to Dana Perino.

      September 19, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
  4. Reality check 101

    History shows the founding fathers of goverment were religious in beliefs and laws were based on Bibical christian morals which are still in affect today. The 10 commandments were and are reconized as part of courts and law beliefs,so much for seperation of church and state I am sure the pilgrims left England to come to what we now call America to have the right to be Athiest right? Im sure there were athiest amoung all of them right? i think that as Americas history/legacy of christianity is its roots they should be perserved and upheld and fully be reconized without compromise.this needs to be accepted. each person is given the opportunity to choose rather they participate or not but dont have the the right to take the opportunity of others to choose in our American Heritage which is what this countrys foundation was and is built on...
    one final thought if we took the 10 commandments out of laws how would you view OUR countrys way of life? just think we would not need courts, police no jails humm we would all prosper wouldnt we? there would be no laws nothing to dominate or fear in our lives we could all live and do what we wanted no bibical based guidelines to follow....
    yep no evidence of a God or for him to have a plan for man. just Faith even the Athiest possses that after all they beleive there is no God just a myth but yet many of them believe in in demonic practices boy im confused ,,,what came first the chicken or the egg? perhaps it to is a myth?

    September 18, 2013 at 5:47 am |
    • EnjaySea

      Explain how an atheist, who doesn't believe that demons exist, would "believe" in demonic practices? Did you actually read your comment before clicking the Post button?

      September 18, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • Earthling

      Truly a special kind of stupidity...

      September 19, 2013 at 1:10 am |
    • lathebiosas

      Here's a reality check for you. Look up "The Treaty Of Tripoli 1797". Page down to article 11 and read the first sentence out loud. It was penned by Goerge Washington and John Barlow, approved unanimously by Congress, and signed into law by then President John Adams. You can't get more founding father than that my friend.

      I love how people try to rewite history on this subject. Most of our founding fathers were deists, not Christians, and a major reason they LEFT England was to get away from the control of the Church.

      When your done with all that read The Age of Reason, written by Thomas Payne, who also wrote Common Sense, the trigger for the American Revolution.

      Jesus, read a book once in awhile blind faithers.

      September 19, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
      • Vader

        Oh, now there you go with that "objective facts" thing to make the fundamental point. Haven't you learned by now that for the "revealed Christian", rational thought and objectivity are neither desired nor valued?

        September 23, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • yeahright

      You are right about one thing. You are confused.

      September 22, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
    • sf

      How could you believe in all that nonsense all that was 300 years ago, now in 21st century we know better.

      September 24, 2013 at 11:28 pm |
  5. Bill Corey

    Luckily, not many people take Dana Perino seriously.

    September 18, 2013 at 5:40 am |
    • lathebiosas

      And again she has just shown why.

      September 19, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
  6. L.S.B.

    U.S.A. and those Islam countries are equally exceptional in the degree of hallucination by skyghosts.

    September 18, 2013 at 2:24 am |
  7. Spinner49

    I don't want to live at Fox News studios anyway....it's full of crazy people.

    September 17, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
  8. Felix Sinclair

    "If these people really don't like it, they don't have to live here," said the people the founders of the US were fleeing in the first place.

    September 17, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
  9. Friedrich

    "Under God" was not part of the pledge of allegiance and was added only in 1954. Why do Christians want to force be to believe in their god in oder for me to pledge to allegiance. The US has a clear separation of Church and State. My allegiance to the USA has nothing to do with your gods!!!!

    September 17, 2013 at 7:58 am |
    • Sam

      Here's an idea then...don't say it. You can't call it "religious freedom" just because you don't agree with it. I'm Christian, and I don't agree with taking it out. Atheists saying it trumps on their rights because they don't believe in God is no different than Christian's saying taking it out trumps on their rights because they do. It's your right not to believe in God, just like it's my right TO believe in Him. Despite what people like to think, Christians aren't the only religious group shoving their beliefs down other people's throats.

      September 18, 2013 at 2:01 am |
      • CamDen1

        YOU are the problem with Christianity. No logic at all!! I think any patriot of America can plainly agree that America was founded off a separation of church and state. Why is it, then, that my patriotism has to be tied in to YOUR religion? How pompous of you! How arrogant! Government buildings are a place for people of all walks of life to come together under a COMMON DENOMINATOR. Schools are a place to leave aside personal belief to teach mathematics, science, and other non-fantasy truths. Our country was founded on the principle that each person can religiously believe whatever they want. What lunacy to suggest that my right not to say "GOD" in my pledge of allegiance to my country is the same as your right to MAKE ME SAY IT?!?!?! And then you try and blame-shift by saying Christians aren't the only ones cramming their religion down others throats. So you admit to cramming your religion down my throat! Watering down your guilt by throwing other religions under the bus does not make you righteous...it only makes you WRONG. Keep your religion where it belongs. At home, at church, and in your small mind.

        September 18, 2013 at 3:18 am |
      • lerianis

        Here is an idea: get religion out of government, like the founding fathers said it was supposed to be totally verboten to have ANY mention of it in government or on government property, and move on.

        September 19, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
      • sf

        You can say in god we trust at your leisure, no one is stopping you to say that but don't force me please. That's no speration of religion and state.

        September 24, 2013 at 11:39 pm |
      • Toothball

        We are talking about children. Not adults. I have no problem not saying it, but kids will feel compelled to just because everyone else is (cause thats what kids do).

        September 26, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
    • singularitypowered

      The US doesn't have a clear distinction between church and state, it was founded to, but it doesn't. Pledging to a god every morning, that's hardly a separation. Using tax money to pay for religious things, also not a separation. Trying to teach unscientific creationism in a science class because the parents are too stupid to believe evidence? None of this is an indication of any separation at all. Parents should teach their kids not to say it, or to say it with the Under God bit omitted.

      September 23, 2013 at 3:41 am |
  10. Ramon Casha

    "If these people don't like it, they don't have to live here," - the same probably was said when they tried to remove slavery and segregation.

    September 17, 2013 at 2:46 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      When the American south was forced to rescind Jim Crow laws and accept racial integration, it was Baptists who most strongly opposed equality.
      Wallie Criswell, an extremely popular and influential Minister famously said "Let them integrate! Let them sit up there in their dirty shirts and make all their fine speeches. But they are all a bunch of infidels, dying from the neck up."

      September 17, 2013 at 8:42 am |
  11. Fargon

    There is no proof of any God and any quotes from the bible are invalid since it was written by man. Some sections were deleted by man and some sections added by man so how is that rational? Why doesn't God just let us know he's there so we can all worship him or her? Control issues and besides that God's plan for some is a nightmare. And why does God get credit for miracles and not for painful deaths etc? And what is praying supposed to do? I mean if some body is fighting for their life, at 100 prayers God decides that's enough to warrant a miracle? Get real people. If you believe in a God you have a very ignorant side to you. I am honest enough to say I wish I had this blind trust and could just place the onus for all of my decisions on God. How wonderful. But my rational side just can't do it because I am a critical thinker. You are not when it comes to this topic. Fargon

    September 16, 2013 at 11:46 pm |
    • lerianis

      Exactly right, Fargon. It is sad how the religious cannot see how insane they are when they believe in a 'god' who cannot be proven to exist and when science has been explaining all the things that we used to attribute to 'god'.

      September 19, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
  12. Gavin Ford

    Yeah! Let's get rid of all of our most rational citizens!

    September 16, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
  13. James A Young

    When issues like this come up, it always exposes the Christian fascist agenda to establish the United States as a Christian theocracy. What they really want is to force every head to bow and every knee to bend in submission to the religious-nut demands of the Christian Taliban.

    September 16, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
  14. John P

    More people have been MURDERED in the NAME OF GOD than have died for any other reason in history. That is a FACT!!! Every war ever fought has been led by people on both sides proclaiming the rightiousness of 'THEIR' god. All religions also claim to be 'peaceful' , unless you don't believe in 'their' god. Think I'll side with the atheists.

    September 16, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
  15. Ditkadog1

    I don't understand how havnig God in either of these places is OK. It's fine for anyone to be Christian. It's fine for anyone to be Muslim. It's fine for anyone to be Jewish. It's fine for anyone to be Athiest. What's not fine is for one of these groups to feel it necessary to have their "god" in government; whether that's in the Pledge of Alegiance or on our paper money. If you want to be believe in God, Jesus, Buddha, Satan or nothing, that's great! This United States was formed on allowing everyone to worship (or not worship) whomever they choose. I think that's where people who have religion get confused. They seem to believe that if you don't allow their "god" to have his/her name on government writings that they are being prevented from holding their beliefs in and/or worshipping their "god". They are more than free to do this, just not with the government involved. Why should I be forced to say this is One Nation, Under God if I don't believe in God? Is there a fear that without his/her name in the Pledge we are all going to turn to atheism and start killing each other? Considering the majority religion in this country is Christian and we are already killing each other, that's not a valid argument.

    September 16, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      It all boils down to economics. The Christians are always looking for free advertising - banner ads on our money, hideous 40 foot tall crosses on hillsides all across America, and their precious "under god" in the pledge. The more exposure they get, the more money rolls in.

      September 16, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
  16. Alex Brown

    note that under god is in the pledge of allegiance and in god we trust is on the dollar, and therefore is more of a part of government than religion, the government has the right to remove it as part of separation of church and state.

    September 16, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
  17. billy

    So, we equate god with money? Yep, religion is a $50 billion a year business scam so I guess we should keep it on our Money(sarcasm)

    September 16, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
  18. Epidi

    I'm tired of people parading around as "journalists" & "experts" injecting their opinions and sullying the facts which are supposed to be provided by the news media.

    September 16, 2013 at 11:44 am |
  19. Bubba

    Just another FOX "Christian" showing how the typical FOX Christian acts. Some of these Christians must be reading Dollar Store Bibles with all the parts about love and forgiveness left out.
    FOX NEWS = Fascist Overbearing Xenophobic Nazi Evil White Supremacist.

    September 16, 2013 at 1:18 am |
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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.