The former press secretary to President George W. Bush has demanded that atheists who object to the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance should leave the country.
The comments by Dana Perino, who served as chief spokesperson for Bush and face of the White House daily press briefings from 2007 to 2009, came during a discussion of a Massachusetts lawsuit opposing the pledge. Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court heard arguments in the case Wednesday.
The case, brought against the Acton-Boxborough School District by atheist parents who are identified only as “Doe” in the lawsuit, seeks to end the daily recitation of the pledge. They claim that reciting a daily pledge containing the phrase “under God” is a form of indoctrination to a religious viewpoint that “invalidates atheism,” and therefore violates the constitutional ban against the government respecting an establishment of religion.
The Fox News political roundtable program “The Five” took up the issue of the lawsuit Wednesday as well. Perino (pictured), a participant in the discussion, when asked how she felt about arguments that challenge religious references in government-sponsored ceremonies, said she was “tired of them.”
“Our representatives have spoken again and again, and if these people don’t like it, they don’t have to live here,” said the onetime Bush mouthpiece.
“Yeah, that’s a good point,” responded the show’s host, Bob Beckel.
Greg Gutfeld, former editor of Men’s Health magazine and described as “a libertarian political satirist, humorist, magazine editor and blogger,” also participated in the discussion. Gutfeld noted that the Constitution is set up to protect people who hold minority beliefs, such as the refusal to believe in God. Perino responded that atheists should not care about mention of God in the pledge, saying “God” is “just like some guy’s name — ‘Obama.’”
Gutfeld pointed out that, though atheists are “a minority,” atheism “is not an extreme idea.” Another panelist, Kimberly Guilfoyle, former first lady of San Francisco, responded, “But why should they be catered to? Why are they so special?”
Written in 1892 by Socialist Francis Bellamy, the pledge was intended to be used in any country. References to the United States were added in 1923. The phrase “under God” was added in 1954 at the height of American panic about Communism, at the insistence of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
At the time, Bellamy’s daughter protested the addition.