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Finance Committee Endorses Plan for Holiday Display

Board of Supervisors will discuss the issue at its second business meeting in July.

In a split vote, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors’ Finance, Government Services and Operations Committee (FGSOC) on June 11 endorsed a plan to display a Christian nativity scene, Jewish menorah and other holiday decorations on the courthouse grounds.

A divided FGSOC voted to forward the proposed holiday display as recommended by the Courts Grounds and Facilities Committee (CGFC) to the full Board of Supervisors.

Last month, with a mix of religious and secular symbols, including a crèche (Christian nativity scene), menorah, Christmas tree, holiday greenery, and a display featuring Santa Claus and reindeer. The committee also recommended the size, location and other details of the proposed display.

Broad Run District Supervisor Shawn Williams opposed the motion to recommend the proposed display to the full board.

“I just feel as though it continues to bring negative attention to our area,” Williams said.

“I’m not certainly advocating against Christianity because that’s not what I’m about,” he said. “What I’m trying to do is take us out of the limelight.”

He said that the Supreme Court had twice ruled that “you can’t advance one religious faith over another.”

Williams twice asked CGFC chair Clint Good if his committee’s recommended holiday display items were consistent with advice County Attorney Jack Roberts had provided the CGFC in executive session.

Each time, Good responded that he did not feel comfortable answering that question, but later noted that the CGFC’s recommendation was consistent with an opinion issued by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

FGSOC chairman Ralph Buona moved that the issue be forwarded to the Board of Supervisors without a recommendation from the committee.

However, Sterling District Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio objected and made a substitute motion to advance the recommendation that the CGFC had made.

Leesburg District Supervisor Ken Reid concurred, saying that sending the issue to the full board without a recommendation would give the impression that the supervisors were unsure of the work of the CGFC.

“If we don’t [make a recommendation], we’re just going to create a lot of controversy and a lot of people are going to be thinking that the Board is backing off,” Reid said.

With board chairman Scott York absent from the meeting, it appeared that the FGSOC was deadlocked at 2-2-1. Buona then grudgingly voted in favor of Delgaudio’s substitute motion, to “break the logjam.”

The Board of Supervisors will consider the issue at its second business meeting in July.

Kristen H June 12, 2012 at 04:24 PM
Thank you again for your coverage of this issue, Jim! I was very happy to see the Supervisors taking the legal ramifications as well as the effects on Leesburg's image into account. One thing that concerned me was Committee Chairman Good's characterization of the committee's decision as "unanimous". Committee member Roy Liggett voted against a creche and menorah (and made some great comments to you, reflected here: http://leesburg.patch.com/articles/committee-finalizes-holiday-display-recommendations). Yesterday, if I heard correctly, the vote was characterized as an abstention. If anyone is curious, the minutes to the May meeting in question are here: http://va-loudouncounty.civicplus.com/archives/106/May%208,%202012%20Minutes.pdf. I don't think there was any ill intent in this mistake, but I don't want it to cause the Supervisors to believe that the votes were unanimous. Committee member Liggett made some great points when he chose to vote against the displays and I hope they will be understood and taken into consideration by the Board.
John Mileo June 12, 2012 at 05:36 PM
Question to Supervisor Williams: Why the concern over the Supreme Court's decision about appearing to advance one religion over another, when the CGFC has in fact recommended the inclusion of a menorah along with the crèche display, which unless my ability to add is faltering, equals two? Question to Supervisor Reid: Why the ongoing effort to have the display be reflective of "all religions" when the period under consideration only includes Hanukah and Christmas?
Jim Barnes June 14, 2012 at 12:35 AM
Kristen, I think you are correct, although I believe I heard Clint Good later tell the committee that there was one vote against the creche. I gave him the benefit of the doubt because I recall that there was some confusion during the May 8 meeting about Roy Liggett's "no" votes. But the minutes state that Mr. Liggett voted against both the creche and the menorah and, as you pointed out, he explained his reasoning to me after the meeting.
Kristen H June 14, 2012 at 02:59 AM
Jim, Thanks -- you're right, Clint Good did change it to an abstention a little bit later on, and it was almost glossed over at the meeting itself when he was casting the votes! I was happy to read his comments to you, and I hope that the BoS doesn't discount them.

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