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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. Jon

    The irony of all this-oft repeated-is the original pledge was written by a Baptist minister who deliberately left out any reference to god. Taken a step further, the inclusion of the "under God" section was done during the McCarthy led 50s red scare. One of the more shameful and paranoid times of the last century.

    October 4, 2013 at 9:00 pm |
    • SmartLawyer

      I think our "Global Warming" times are much more paranoid than the Red Scare.

      October 6, 2013 at 11:22 am |
  2. Infidel

    People living within defined religions want to be free to believe what they believe. They are proud of what they believe, and it gives them a sense of righteousness. They take this benchmark of righteousness and use it as a gauge to measure the rest of the world. If something doesn't measure up, it is wrong–inferior–a threat. Since they know whats right, they will enlighten those who don't. And if the unenlightened don't heed the word, there must be sanctions.
    On the other side of the coin you have those who don't buy into deities and religion. It doesn't make logical sense to them, and they marvel at those who follow their beliefs. For that reason, they strongly resist those that proselytize their faith. The two groups are at an impasse. And one can't tolerate the other. Someone has to be wrong. It must be the other guy.
    Knowing this has caused more wars, oppressions, murders, and other acts of intolerance and violence than any other single issue. Even more than greed, money, or power. People kill for material things. People commit genocide for religion. This is why separation of church and state is paramount. We need to force ourselves to be tolerant of others faiths or lack thereof, and stop trying to convert the world to our sense of Nirvana. Keep it to yourself.

    October 3, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • lerianis

      The fallacy you buy into is that religion is at all valid. It is not, when you look at it in a neutral light, religion fails multiple tests of truth.

      October 3, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
    • ThatGuy

      Eloquently stated, unfortunately you missed a major point and your post makes little sense because of it. It is the religious who have caused all religion-related violence in the past. When is the last time there was an atheistic uprising or a secular revoltion? Think before you post.

      October 4, 2013 at 8:06 am |
      • wiggin

        Atheist massacres: Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot. Historically, religion has killed more, but atheism kills too. To murder is human.

        October 5, 2013 at 9:29 am |
        • lerianis

          Again, NONE of those people were Atheist. They were people who thought that they were living gods.

          October 5, 2013 at 10:27 am |
        • Cted

          That's not a list of atheists... it is a list of men. Did they kill becuase they were men? None of those people killed in the name of their atheist anymore than Stalin and Hitler killed in the name of their mustaches.

          Religion actually does direct people to fight and kill one anonother, atheism simply does not.

          October 7, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
        • HM8432

          Don't try to 'church them up'. At the end of the day, they didn't believe in God, they embraced State-sponsored atheism, and had millions murdered for no other reason than that they believed in God.

          October 8, 2013 at 1:46 am |
        • lerianis

          Bull. They killed millions of people because they thought that they were living gods and that their positions on subjects were the only right ones, thereby allowing them to justify killing large groups of people.

          October 8, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • Bekah

      I couldn't agree with you more. Tolerance is key. People have every right to believe what they want to believe or to not believe, all together. Accepting that others' beliefs may differ from yours is essential to maintaining peace. Unfortunately, intolerance breeds contempt.

      October 5, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
  3. Ted Ferguson

    What is amazing to me is that we have witnessed in our lifetimes an extreme example of why religion and state should be separate – the Taliban – and yet somehow it STILL does not register in people's brains why combining the two is a bad idea.

    When you're in the group who's religion is being supported, I understand why you think it's good, but try to put yourselves in one of the minority group's shoes for a change. Or if that's too hard, think about if our leaders wanted to implement Sharia law. It's essentially the same thing you're doing to these minority groups. You are forcing them to do stuff YOU believe in – not them.

    October 3, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • boyscout

      It does not register because each religion believes it is the truth and the more correct way. Religion in its base form was supposed to be about living together equally and peacefully with each other. In its present interpretations it is about control and power and who is right. In that form none of it is right. Hatred and war is against humanity.

      October 3, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • SmartLawyer

      The United Kingdom has a state sponsored church. You think maybe the violence associated with the Taliban is the result of something else?

      October 6, 2013 at 11:32 am |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        Isn't the issue that of "sponsor" versus "mandate?" The political system in England doesn't seem to care all that much what you do about their "state sponsored religion." That's not the case in several muslim dominated countries.

        October 6, 2013 at 11:38 am |
      • Earthling

        You may not have noticed, but there's a subtle difference between a state-sponsored religion optionally available to the general public, and a government run entirely by religious fanatics whose sole purpose is complete subordination of the entire human race.

        October 6, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
        • Kyle A. Reed of Indiana

          Israel is a nation state. In which almost all are of Jewish descent and it is their national and official religion. They are very well mannered, respected, and even honored individuals. They have no intentions of forcing religion upon no one. But the procedures are influenced on a guidline imposed by the good book. Which is what we need. Government stability, Leadership, and those who continue to fall under corruption to be taken out of power and replaced with men and women that can ensure the well being of the people are met.

          October 7, 2013 at 10:28 pm |
        • lerianis

          Bull. Look at what they are doing to the Palestinians and then try to say what you just spouted with a straight face.

          October 8, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
  4. MHendrix

    She's spot on freddo. As to you, you couldn't pour water out of a boot with instructions on the heel.

    October 3, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Nah, Dana's just a right wing hottie airhead who's probably still blowing The Shrub.

      October 3, 2013 at 9:42 am |
  5. freddo

    Dana Perino can go screw herself.

    October 2, 2013 at 10:18 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      I agree but I'd watch.

      October 2, 2013 at 10:27 pm |
  6. Madison

    Simpleton

    October 2, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
  7. KrjMc

    Some people just do not understand the separation of church and state. It was adopted by our founding fathers for a reason as they saw the dangers in religion in government. I guess the same could be said to her if you do not like freedom from religion you also can leave and live in a country where they are unable to separate religion from government. There should be no references to god in any government building, courthouse, or any other public place. Keep your religion in your churches and in your homes where it belongs.

    October 2, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
    • Ben

      Actually if one goes back and looks at the belief system of many of our founding fathers, the faith they had in God, exemplified in both their words and deeds, is impressive. Those in positions of leadership in our society must familiarize themselves with the religions of all their citizens, and they must begin to emphasize the commonalities that unite us as people of faith. Common objectives placed on the forefront of public policies will help people work together and bond us together as a nation in spite of our religious differences. Even though most Americans believe in God and many have a strong personal faith, political correctness decries public declarations of that faith. If most people believe in God and yet we are afraid to speak of that belief in public, what does that say about the freedoms that our ancestors fought and died for?

      October 4, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
      • Earthling

        "If most people believe in God and yet we are afraid to speak of that belief in public, what does that say about the freedoms that our ancestors fought and died for?"
        Everyone poops, yet everyone knows better than to do it while standing in line at the bank. Declaiming religious nonsense in public is the same as pooping in public. It's repulsive, and it stinks.

        October 5, 2013 at 10:07 pm |
        • SmartLawyer

          I feel the same way about environmentalism.

          October 6, 2013 at 11:38 am |
        • Earthling

          One of the reasons I believe that every education should be firmly grounded in science and engineering. You may very well be a smart lawyer, but you seem to lack an understanding of science.

          October 6, 2013 at 10:06 pm |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        Perhaps you should look into many of the negative statements of many of the founding fathers against the bible and Christianity. Be prepared to read for quite a while and try not to be too shocked.

        October 6, 2013 at 11:41 am |
  8. Michael Hobart

    The phrase "In God We Trust" was added to U.S. coins in 1864 but was not added to printed currency until 1957. It was adopted as an alternate to the "E Pluribus Unum" unofficial motto in 1956. As others noted, the country ran quite well before these changes, as well as after them. Symbolism rather than substance.

    October 2, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
  9. Frank

    A reasonable assessment is that the phrase, 'under God' carries a belief in a supreme being. Democratically, that could be a 'flying spaghetti monster' of any similar spoof. I would make it, 'under Truth', since Truth is God, and God is Truth. That would make it more compatible with all American thinking. Doesn't anyone object to pledging allegiance to a piece of cloth? I pledge allegiance to the nation and to the flag that is a symbol of the nation. I do not pledge allegiance to a piece of cloth. When I say the pledge, I use my own words that get drowned out and nobody suspects me of being a Communist. In my opinion, God hears me loud and clear and approves.

    October 2, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
  10. DMTX

    These IGNORANT Fox News Hosts are a national shame. I bet nobody ever told her that it was added by people just like her in the 50's.

    October 2, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
  11. SeaTurtle

    I dunno about the rest of you, but I recognize that the majority of Americans consider themselves Christians, even though they don't act like Christians, or even fully understand what it actually means to be a Christian. As someone who hold the opinion that any gods most likely do not exist, and that the God of Christianity DEFINITELY does not exist, I can still recognize the incomplete thought processes that make them go into a fit of rage whenever anyone tries to loosen their grip on their irrational belief, so I simply allow my voice to drop out as the "under God" passage in the Pledge of Allegiance goes by, and I can just as easily ignore the "In God We Trust" blurb on the bills in my wallet..

    Let's be realistic. Believers may feel they have to stand up for their beliefs or be unfaithful to their (non-existent) God, but I am under no similar obligation to be true to my "un-God." So, fine, say the words if they make you feel better. I simply do not care to fight over a point that has no application to me.

    October 2, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
  12. SeaTurtle

    Atheists don't have to live here?

    Uh, yeah, we kinda DO.

    October 2, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
  13. asdrel

    On a similar idea, does that mean that if African-Americans don't like Jim Crow laws they don't have to live here? Similar concepts can be applied to other minorities.

    October 2, 2013 at 10:38 am |
    • JohnKentzel

      I thought the same thing. Back in the 60s I recall hearing people say similar comments about Blacks. - "If they don't like it here, they can go back to Africa."

      October 5, 2013 at 9:56 am |
  14. Ellen S Wilds

    Conservatives act as though the Pledge of Allegiance dripped from the pens of the Founding Fathers and that every syllable is somehow sacred. It was written in 1892 by a socialist minister as a one time gesture to honor the 400th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of – – -the island we now call Haiti. The phrase "under god" was added in the 1950s as a supposed shield against godless communists during the Cold War. But it was never intended to be a litmus test of patriotism. Not only should we drop the phrase "under god" we should stop forcing children who are too young to understand what the pledge means to say it.

    October 1, 2013 at 9:53 pm |
    • doobzz

      It has as much effect as those little American flag lapel pins that are now de rigueur for politicians.

      October 2, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
  15. Howie

    Like defecation religious expression should be done behind closed doors where no one else has to smell it.

    October 1, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
  16. kirk mayberry

    "In God We Trust' was first featured on the 2 cent piece in 1864. Religion is good for good people and nuts like it too and pervert it to their silly stupid ends.

    October 1, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
    • doobzz

      It should go the way of the two cent piece.

      October 2, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
  17. Dave

    I'm a Christian and I would highly recommend we remove "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance (which, by the way was part of an ad campaign for magazines and flags). Let's take "In God We Trust" off our coins too. And will the president please stop demanding the "God Bless America" every time he ends his speeches. We're clearly not one nation under God. Claiming to be so is simply a lie.

    October 1, 2013 at 10:51 am |
  18. nonPCrealist

    I'm an atheist, and I never understood the big deal with this. If you don't want to say 'under God'.. umm.. don't say it. Picking this as a battle to fight only raises anger against us (since in the eyes of non-atheists we must all be the same militant DBs as these people are..). Save the money and energy for things that matter.

    October 1, 2013 at 10:40 am |
  19. Me

    David Silverman says bigotry? He is not seeing that he is offending every religious person in this country. He is what I would could a very "unwise" person.

    October 1, 2013 at 8:43 am |
  20. Lynda

    I agree, with leaving all religion out of governing. Religion in governing has been shown time and again to destroy nations. Look at the middle east.When religious crazies take over or get power, they demand everyone "be as crazy as they are and follow them". Truly FREE American's follow no one. The GOP can claim to 'own the religion and wrap themselves in the flag but their religion isn't a 'National" fact or accurate. This country is not 'christian.

    September 30, 2013 at 6:25 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.