Letter to the Editor: Holiday Display Policy
A statement has been issued by Town Council member Ken Reid regarding Loudoun Board of Supervisors vote to uphold the current holiday display policy.
After hearing discussion from both sides of the debate over what displays are appropriate for the Courthouse lawn at Monday night's Board of Supervisors public input session, I approached Dulles District Supervisor Stevens Miller with a proposal to ban all these displays except the Christmas tree, which has been upheld by federal courts that both government and private entities can place on public property.
I was among the leaders of the effort in 2009 and 2010 to ensure that all displays, religious and secular, had access to the Courthouse lawn after a Supervisor-appointed committed wanted all of them banned.
However, atheist groups and others crossed the line this year with the disgusting and reprehensible display of a skeleton in Santa outfit on a cross. My major concern was the impact this would have on young children and Leesburg's annual Christmas and Holiday Parade Saturday, despite the stated intent of the folks who posted it. I wish to praise the media for airing the photo of the crucified Santa because it brought pressure to bear.
I am pleased that after speaking with American Atheists Capitol Hill Rep Rick Wingrove that the persons who placed this on the courthouse lawn Sunday removed it after it was vandalized.
However, while this and the "letter from Jesus" billboard were removed, there is still the possibility that other groups will post their displays this year and despoil the holiday spirit in Leesburg. I believe the groups that support the holiday spirit are not harming anyone with their symbols, but the intent of various anti-religion and atheist groups is to create angst because they oppose all efforts to celebrate Christmas in public places and it is their stated goal to ban everything.
This was the last opportunity for this board to correct the mess they helped create and I am extremely disappointed they balked on even discussing it, even when County Attorney Jack Roberts agreed to go into closed session and offer some legal advice. I praise Supervisor Miller for at least making one last stab at correcting a situation on this board's last meeting of their term.
Although Mr. Miller's proposal would also have meant no creche or religious symbols, this was a good compromise until the new Board of Supervisors, on which I will serve, can take up the issue and look at other alternatives - -some of which were outlined by Mr. Roberts in open session.
I also learned from broadcast reporters that under Judge Horne's rules, they cannot even set up a camera inside the Old Courthouse fence without permission per use, but yet atheist groups can post billboards year round -- most of which violate the County's sign ordinance and would not be allowed in other parts of Loudoun County, which Chairman York noted today. It is my hope the Judge and new Board can revisit the press access policy, too.
I urge groups to put sensible displays on the Courthouse lawn and not turn the holiday into a spectacle.
Thank you and warmest regards,
Ken Reid Member, Leesburg Town Council