The Loudoun Board of Supervisors approved Wednesday a government-sponsored holiday display on the county courthouse grounds in downtown Leesburg, potentially paving the way for another year of headline-grabbing hoopla as the holidays near.
Following a recommendation from the board’s finance committee, the full board voted 7-2 in favor of a holiday display that will include a Christmas tree, lights, ornaments, a spotlight, a nativity scene, a menorah and a Santa Claus with a sleigh and reindeer. The items follow a separate recommendation from the Loudoun County Courthouse Grounds and Facilities Committee.
Opposing the holiday display were Vice Chair Janet Clarke (R-Blue Ridge) and Supervisor Shawn Williams (R-Broad Run). Williams has been a constant vocal critic of any government-sponsored décor on the courthouse grounds, as the county’s holiday displays have made unwanted national news in recent years.
Last December, a “skeleton Santa” on a cross outside the courthouse was vandalized, leading Christian and atheist groups alike to hold peaceful demonstrations on the county property.
Local atheists continue to address supervisors, urging them not to allow religious displays on government property. Loudoun County, they say, is setting itself up for a lawsuit by sponsoring certain religions on government property.
Williams, the only attorney on the board, said last month he believes the board is “in fact advancing certain religions, which is a violation of the establishment clause (of the U.S. Constitution).”
Finance committee chairman Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn), however, said at the time the recommendation puts some “tastefulness” back to the courthouse grounds display.
“The fact is that we are not going to have some of the things we’ve seen in the past,” Buona said. “Nor are we going to be the subject in my mind to national ridicule.”
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