Taking it Too Far

By Michael Nerantzis
The holiday displays on the Loudoun County courthouse lawn became a controversy last year because some viewed their content as disrespectful; now nine new holiday displays for the 2011 holiday season are up and causing more outrage in the community.  In an attempt to save the reputation of the Town of Leesburg, I am calling for an end to all displays on the courthouse lawn.  Beltway Atheists Incorporated is using the courthouse property as a platform to mock the beliefs of others and justify their actions by invoking their free speech rights.
According to Nancy McCormick, of Loudoun County Public Affairs and Communications, the lone display since 1979 has been a nativity scene which was provided by Debbie and Dennis Welch through the Rotary Club of Leesburg.  Last year around the holidays Beltway Atheists Incorporated began exercising their freedom of speech by erecting an obnoxious green sign with an anti-creator message on it.  It was a big deal in the town; however, it did not spark as much public uproar as this year’s displays.
This holiday season two displays from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (no, this is not a joke), a skeleton Santa Claus nailed to a cross, and two Beltway Atheists signs will be accompanying the nativity scene on the courthouse lawn.  According to an article from The Loudoun Times -Mirror, the creator of the Santa Skeleton, Jeff Heflin, wrote on his application for the display “[It shows] society’s materialistic obsessions and addictions and how it is killing the peace, love, joy, and kindness that is supposed to be prevalent during the holiday season.”
It would be one thing if the groups were celebrating their religion. They are, however, maliciously attacking other religions and beliefs and then trying to justify their actions by saying it’s their Constitutional right.  Ironically, the people who wrote the Constitution built this country on Christian values.  I have absolutely no respect for the individuals who are responsible for the displays.
What is anyone actually getting out of the displays?  Are the Atheists getting comfort?  Does it make them feel warm inside?  Does it make Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, or people of any other religion feel good?  What is the actual purpose of putting up signs that put down someone else’s religion? “We’ve put up many banners celebrating reason and science and promoting the Separation of Church and State,” says Eric Santiago, Director of Beltway Atheist.  In this case it seems as if Beltway Atheist is clearly trying to make a joke of the religious holidays and ruin holiday spirit at the same time.
These displays leave a shadow on the town as well.  They are already a big story in the local and national news, and it’s a matter of time before Jay Leno jumps on them.  If the town is trying to encourage people to come visit so businesses will grow, it sure doesn’t help when you have Santa Claus nailed to a cross and billboards with John Lennon looking “high” wherever you walk.  Will parents be comfortable taking their kids downtown with the displays up?  “Hey, Mommy, look!  The Board of Supervisors killed Santa!”  It’s funny to think that just four months ago the Town of Leesburg was recognized as being the fourth best place in the country to live, according to a CNN report.  Personally, I believe it isn’t a bragging point to say you live here at the moment.
With respect for the First Amendment and the perception of the town in jeopardy, I say we take down the displays altogether.  If a select few have decided to ruin it for the rest of us, then so be it.