September 9th, 2013
03:29 PM ET

Fox News host: Atheists 'don't have to live here'

By Daniel BurkeCNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
[twitter-follow screen_name='BurkeCNN']

(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. Phelix Unger

    First of all, she shouldn't be telling people to leave, the right phrase is, if your not going to play by my rules I'm taking my ball and going home. As for the god thing, everyone else can play with that one. When you find him, her, them or it, please ask ? where my other sock is?

    September 9, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
    • Rett

      Look under your bed

      September 9, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG


      September 9, 2013 at 9:42 pm |
    • RC

      The dryer ate it. Evil dryer...

      September 11, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
  2. getalife

    If you don't like the pledge, don't say it! It's not a mandate, kids don't have to say it. Adults don't have to say it. No one has to say it!

    September 9, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM

      And if people want to say it? They don't need to have God in it. Keep your god in your homes and churches not in the government.

      September 9, 2013 at 9:21 pm |
      • getalife

        If people want to include God, then let them! If they don't, don't make them. I don't see why this is an issue with so many more important things happening.

        September 9, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
        • What is going on? FREEDOM

          Then don't allow it as law. Get rid of the law that tells people they must have God included in the pledge of allegiance and such.

          September 9, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
  3. rconatser1

    So many Christians...so few lions.

    September 9, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
    • niknak


      September 9, 2013 at 9:21 pm |
    • ATLmatt

      LOL. We need to start branching out to Tigers, Bears, and Poisonous Spiders and Snakes.

      September 9, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
  4. rtrauben

    > "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."

    Well said.

    September 9, 2013 at 9:03 pm |
    • Poolwrecker

      So how does it make things 'equal' to remove "under God". At that point the feelings/beliefs of the christians have now been cast aside in favor of those not wanting it included. One way or the other, one side is going to be deferring to the other. This is not a situation where equality has a chance of being achieved.

      September 9, 2013 at 9:10 pm |
      • What is going on? FREEDOM

        Poolwrecker Christians have not been cast aside you fool. By that logic, you are basically stating that all other religious groups have been cast aside due to God being included in our secular government.

        September 9, 2013 at 9:11 pm |
      • midwest rail

        Nonsense. Returning the pledge to its original form IS equal.

        September 9, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
      • niknak

        You need to do some history research Homewrecher.
        That phase was never in the original pledge, which was written by a minister who believed in god.
        Was added not to show respect to god but to put a thumb in the eye of the Russians.

        But I forget, anything that you believers deem to go against you is "Christian bashing!"

        September 9, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
    • Greg

      If they don't like it here, then move! Right on....

      September 9, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
  5. Watching in the wings

    How many busybodies does this country need? Find real issues people. I do not know why the entire world has to come to a screeching halt every time some loud minority of people want to force their personal agenda down others' throats. You want to contribute to America? Fight hunger. Fight poverty.

    September 9, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM

      And only minorities try to shove their beliefs down people's throats? Nice fantasy world your living in fool.

      September 9, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      " I do not know why the entire world has to come to a screeching halt every time some loud minority of people want to force their personal agenda down others' throats."

      Here is the problem with your comment, minorities NEVER get to force themselves on the majority, you religious pig r a p e rs think you can just bend any minority group over your pew and take advantage of us but when we finally say no you scream "WHY ARE YOU ROCKING THE BOAT! WHY DOES OUR WORLD WHERE WE ARE SUPER SPECIAL HAVE TO COME TO A HALT JUST BECAUSE THOSE WE ARE R A P I N G TEND TO COMPLAIN!"

      September 9, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
  6. dwt

    That last woman speaking is aghast that atheist inflict their belief system on their "pawn" children? What does she think religious indoctrination is ALL ABOUT? I cannot count the number of Catholic and other Christian mothers I've known who understand that you have to get to the youngs ones early on church ceremony and the like, because if you wait until they're in Middle School, they might think about whether they agree first...

    September 9, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
  7. MJ in NJ

    Dana, if you like the phrase so much, go join the Knights of Columbus, for Christs sake.

    September 9, 2013 at 9:00 pm |
  8. Jaz

    The problem here is the foundation of Christianity people live by. Christianity is about love. Jesus love didn't offend or hurt. Instead his love brought peace. It gave comfort to the lonely and direction to the lost. It is evident that not many people understand his love. In this case, the phrase "if you knew better, you would do better". Not everyone knows Gods love well enough to be an example of it. Its not so much of trying to convert anyone, rather just sharing the love of Christ.

    September 9, 2013 at 8:58 pm |
    • Bart Simpson

      Hello, he died over 2000 yrs ago, how can we feel his love?

      September 9, 2013 at 9:06 pm |
      • Jaz

        Well in this case, I'm referring to the Christian. The bible says in John 14:26 "These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. 26"But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you." If you are Christian than you understand this. Therefore you learn his love through the holy spirit. 🙂

        September 9, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
    • ecarlson1961

      "I come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword" Matt. 10:34

      September 9, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
      • Jaz

        That is to say, He did not come to change the social structure of this world. He did not come to bring a social peace to a world that is living in sin and in disobedience to God. That's what that verse means. He brings peace to those who are in repentance of their sins. Faith comes by hearing the gospel of Christ. According to Paul, the gospel is a gospel of peace. Peace to those who accept God in their hearts. It will bring division, if you don't believe in it.

        September 9, 2013 at 9:29 pm |
        • G to the T

          That's your interpretation Jaz and that's fine. Just remember it's not the ONLY way to interpret that section...

          September 10, 2013 at 11:52 am |
  9. Julia

    I have taken the oath of Enlistment five times and the oath of Office twice and I don't participate in the pledge of allegiance to the flag as it is, in my mind a fascist statement.
    If the previous oaths aren't good enough for the American Taliban they can kiss my rosy pink A$$! I spent more time in the chow line than those talking heads. I feel I EARNED my place here and they are the ones that have to PROVE they are Patriots.... NOT ME ! Mouthing a pledge does not a good citizen make ! Actions and commitment does!

    September 9, 2013 at 8:57 pm |
    • Poolwrecker

      YA! If you're not fully ready, willing and able to go out and kill people in the demands that they make their country like yours then shut up! You have no rights, even though technically people killed other people to make sure you do.

      September 9, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
  10. amisc

    I am sick & tired of people telling others to leave the country simply because they disagree. The country has always had people who have disagreed with each other, including the Founding Fathers. Jefferson vehemently disagreed when Washington chose Hamilton's economic direction for the country; should Washington have told Jefferson to leave the country? Perino says that atheists should leave the country; next it will be the Jews who she will tell to leave, and the Mormons, and the Catholics, etc. People can disagree but she just shows that she is a religious bigot.

    September 9, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
  11. hammer

    Atheists are being to be more like Baptist.When you see one coming you hide.

    September 9, 2013 at 8:54 pm |
  12. Willy Nilly

    Apparently she had no real argument for her stand so she resorted to the old, 'if you don't like my rules, you can just leave.' She demonstrated the weakness of her position with great clarity. She can go away now and ponder her reason for living.

    September 9, 2013 at 8:54 pm |
    • hammer

      Like you have a argument.

      September 9, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
      • Illinois SA

        Yes, Hammer, a legitimate argument unlike Ms. Perino's. The argument is that The Pledge of Allegiance (edited to include "under god" in the 1950's as a result of the red scare) is a patriotic pledge and doesn't need the injection of a religion that is not shared by all of America's citizens. Therefore, it is in violation of the historical separation of church and state. Any other questions? Instead of throwing out mindless 'arguments', why don't you suggest something constructive. Here, I'll demonstrate... How about we go back to the ORIGINAL Pledge of Allegiance which does not include the religious statement? See, wasn't that simple?

        September 9, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
  13. dwt

    Wanting someone else to believe what you believe regarding religion is problematic. Wanting to make the State enforce such policing is flat-out un-American.

    Dana Peraino should go somewhere else, like Saudi Arabia, if she relishes official supervision of faith.

    September 9, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
  14. cc

    I'm not sure who I find more offensive: atheists who think everybody should believe whatever they believe or religious fanatics who think everybody should believe whatever they believe. Both are best off being banned from any public forum IMO. As for the issue, there's a simple solution-use lowercase god. It's spoken the same but no longer recognizes any religion.

    September 9, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
    • niknak

      NEVER has an atheist come knocking on your door to talk you about NOT believing in god.
      We non believers could not care less what you believe in.
      What we care about is you trying to pass off your "faith" as fact.
      It is not.
      Keep it out of our secular nation and you would never hear a peep out of us again.

      September 9, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
      • 616

        Naw..they just put up billboards and tear down crosses that have been standing in parks for generations. Yeah, they don't get into anyone's faces.

        September 9, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
        • What is going on? FREEDOM

          And Christians never do those things right?

          September 9, 2013 at 8:58 pm |
        • 616

          Why do you ask? You don't think that christian bad behavior cancels out atheist bad behavior do you?

          September 9, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
        • What is going on? FREEDOM

          Nope. Just pointing out your fallacy in your argument that you seem to want to ignore.

          September 9, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
        • 616

          There was no fallacy because not once did I say that christians never do bad things. I merely pointed out that atheists do bad things as well. The person that posted above was under the impression that atheists don't do things in the "faces" of christians. And that would be false.

          September 9, 2013 at 9:08 pm |
        • What is going on? FREEDOM

          I guess you should read again 616, because he only stated that Atheists never went to knocking on people's doors and forcing their beliefs on others. Quite a far cry from what you are trying to state.

          September 9, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
        • niknak

          666, you believers have tried for years, and are still trying up to this day to shove your beliefs onto everyone else.
          We non believers are only asking for you to keep it to yourselves.
          Your deadbeat churches are all getting tax exempt status, your holy holidays get subsidized by the taxpayers, we have to put up with your crosses and such in public spaces. This country bends over backwards for you believers.
          What we are tired of is you trying to push your believe into our secular nation.
          I don't want to live in a theocracy. But you xtians are hell bent on turning this into one.

          Until you can provide some proof of your god, then it is just a hypothesis with no merit.

          September 9, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
        • Nick

          It's hilarious that you would even equate 'putting up billboards' to the horrifying lengths christians have gone over the years to ram their fascist religion down everyone's throat. Oh, Atheists put up billboards, you complain? Well christians bomb women's health centers, and murder abortion providers in church, and cast out their gay and lesbian children into the street, and come scream hatred at participants in equality parades, etc, etc, etc, etc. You people scream about evildoers with one breath and then scream the most vile, evil things with the very next breath.

          September 9, 2013 at 9:38 pm |
        • 616

          @What is going on? FREEDOM- if you think it's a far cry, everyone is enti tled to an opinion.

          @niknak- get your beastal marks clear son. "you believers"?? Who are you talking to?
          I never shoved any beliefs upon anyone.
          I have no church.
          Awww, are those crosses such a burden for you. Poor thing.
          I don't want to live in a theocracy either. See, we are just alike you and I 🙂
          Have I gave a hypothesis? Forgive me but it seems like you don't debate but guess, alot.

          @Nick- I think you are having a very dramatic moment here. I'm not complaining that atheists have done any of this stuff. I am merely pointing out that they have.
          "You people...". What ppl is that again? I don't believe I belong to either.

          September 10, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • atroy

      Being an atheist means I "don't believe". My only interest is in seeing others engage their own minds and think for themselves...not to "think like me" nor to think how they are told to think.

      September 9, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
  15. Observer

    The first "motto" on coins in the United States: "Mind Your Business". No wonder Republicans wanted a new one.

    September 9, 2013 at 8:42 pm |
    • G to the T

      Gotta love Ben Franklin – the man knew what he was talking about.

      September 10, 2013 at 11:56 am |
  16. Matt

    You want to get rid of atheists? Simple. Prove your god exists. Atheists, by definition, therefore, cannot exist.

    Been several thousand years; any chance you'll be offering any concrete proof?

    Yeah, didn't think so.

    September 9, 2013 at 8:38 pm |
    • rc roeder

      LOL. But is all about belief...I still believe in Santa Clause

      September 9, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
    • sativa619

      You sir, get a harumph!

      September 9, 2013 at 8:44 pm |
    • sam stone

      any god would do

      September 9, 2013 at 9:48 pm |
  17. Robert

    These people are so under educated on this issue that it almost hurts to listen to them. "Under God" was added to the pledge in 1954 in response to the "atheist" USSR. "In God We Trust" was officially adopted as the national motto in 1956 for largely the same reason. That took me less than a minute to find with Google.

    This is not about catering. It's about violating the Establishment Clause.

    September 9, 2013 at 8:38 pm |
    • M

      Some powerful facts there.

      September 9, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
    • Marc

      Thank you! I keep telling folks this but nobody believes me. I was born in '56 and even when in Kindergarten the adults would still trip over saying "under God" during the pledge.

      Folks act as if it was carved in stone at the time of the declaration signing. Sorry, but it was just a political ploy of the Cold War. Funny how we survived as a nation before it and "in God we trust" were added.

      September 9, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
    • Matt

      "That took me less than a minute to find with Google. " ... took me even less to see it in the article already

      September 9, 2013 at 9:00 pm |
  18. Tri0de

    Sure. Show me my freedom to use heroin, smoke cannabis, digitally create certain provocitive images or call for the killing of people...
    No, your concept of 'freedom' is only for those who agree with you.

    We put restrictions on what crazy people can do and what violent deviants can say, unless the violent ones happen to belong to the correct cult.

    September 9, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      Apart from perhaps incitement to commit murder, all those things should be legal.

      September 9, 2013 at 8:38 pm |
    • Observer


      What violent deviants don't have to go to jail? What deviants are you fantasizing about?

      September 9, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
    • Illinois SA

      Is there a point in there somewhere?

      September 9, 2013 at 9:17 pm |
  19. james

    Hey folks google how the flag was saluted during the 20's and 30's. Some older folks might remember. pictures of students saluting the flag with arm extended out, palm up, saluting old glory!
    Ya really want upset some right winged people start saying "under Allah" That ought to make Dana's a hole pucker right up!

    September 9, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
    • Pacarus


      September 9, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
  20. hammer

    Atheists can KISS MY A$$

    September 9, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      you sound hawt - where do you live?

      September 9, 2013 at 8:33 pm |
    • Art Vandelay

      Aww, how very Christian and godly of you. Hypocrites like you can kiss my a$$.

      September 9, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
    • Observer


      Jesus would be so proud of you, right?

      September 9, 2013 at 8:40 pm |
    • rc roeder

      Gee all of the offer of A$$ kissing reminds me of the Gay Pride Parade in SF. Glad you are all out of the closet

      September 9, 2013 at 8:43 pm |
    • sativa619

      Your God has taught you nothing, including not teaching you how to be a civil human being. You can't even follow one simple thing that Jesus said I bet, especially "Judge not, lest ye be judged."

      September 9, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
    • EdwardTr

      If you and Dana Perino do not like it you can leave this country.

      September 9, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
    • Illinois SA

      If I had a Hammer....I'd enroll it in a better school where critical thinking 101 was the only class available.

      September 9, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
    • Nick

      Do you think Jeebus is proud of his army of simpleton groupies that he has acquired via the tea party? Somehow I doubt it.

      September 9, 2013 at 9:41 pm |
    • doobzz

      I can feel the Christian love just radiating off my computer screen!

      September 10, 2013 at 12:17 am |
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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.