First amendment vs. Christmas in Loudoun County

(Photo: Kris Van Cleave)

A shocking Christmas-time display was seen in front of the Leesburg courthouse Monday: It showed a crucified skeleton in a Santa costume.

A couple hours later, that display was knocked down. The skeleton was in a heap on the court house lawn and a display was moved in front of it. That display was a letter addressed to Christians, signed Jesus. It apparently belongs to an atheist.

“I’m thrilled it got knocked down,” says Brooke Rogers, a Leesburg resident. “I hope no children saw it while it was up. I think it’s really disturbing.”

The woman responsible for putting up the Santa skeleton took it down while people were in the public meeting about the decorations. People who know the woman said she does not plan to put the decorations back up.

Christmas has become contentious in Loudoun County after the constitutionality of the annual Nativity scene was questioned.

Public uproar stopped the board of supervisors from banning displays all together, so now the county issues several permits for displays that are religious and otherwise. A group of atheists says they should all go. But if they’re allowed everyone should a get a say.

“You don’t say free speech and then tear down someone else’s display,” says Rick Wingrove, Virginia director of American Atheists.