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Reid’s terrorist comparison draws furor from local atheists

photoTimes-Mirror File Photo/Beverly Denny Then-Leesburg Town Councilman Ken Reid lights a menorah at the Leesburg tree and menorah lighting on the Town Green Dec. 3, 2010. Reid, a Republican, is now the Loudoun County supervisor for the Leesburg District.

Are all atheists terrorists? Is anyone who opposes a holiday display on the Loudoun County Courthouse grounds a terrorist?

County Supervisor Ken Reid (R-Leesburg) seemed to make that assertion in a Nov. 26 Washington Times story featuring the past—and now current—controversy surrounding the local holiday displays in downtown Leesburg.

Reid was quoted in the Washington Times saying: “None of the religious organizations in the county have had any problem with what we’re doing. It’s strictly this group of terrorists. They’re fanatics who basically want to stamp out religion in all public life and property.”

Reid’s remarks added another chapter to the years-running drama of holiday displays on the Loudoun County Courthouse grounds. In 2011, after the board voted to allow displays on a first-come, first-serve basis, a controversial skeleton Santa hung from a cross next to a traditional nativity scene and symbols of the Flying Spaghetti Monster church. Vandalism ensued, and the county was featured in several national and local news reports in what supervisors consider an unfortunate light.

On Nov. 7 of this year, following a recommendation from the Board of Supervisors’ 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.

Reid’s recent statement was referencing the vocal group of atheists who urged the board to prohibit any religion-related décor on county grounds. His comments quickly drew the ire of the Loudoun County Democratic Committee and the atheist community, who see the county-sponsored decoration as a violation of the separation of church and state.

Reid offered an apology when prompted by a reporter during an NBC4 segment Nov. 27. The Leesburg supervisor admitted using the word “‘terrorist’ was a poor choice of words.”

In an email to members of the media, Reid claimed the Washington Times story didn’t use the quote in its full context, nor did NBC4 report everything he said.

“My comments in the Washington Times were directed specifically at the atheist groups that have been relentlessly pursuing their goal to remove all religious holiday symbols from the courthouse lawn, not all atheists or non-believers,” Reid said. “I also told the [Washington Times] that [atheist leader] Rick Wingrove’s proposed ‘attended display’ is fine under our county rules ...

“It’s regrettable … the Loudoun County Democratic Committee are unwilling to accept my apology for the use of the word in the Washington Times article and are choosing to use this incident to make political hay,” Reid said.

Wingrove, a member of American Atheists who often speaks during the public comment portion of Loudoun Board of Supervisor meetings, has maintained the county is in effect sponsoring various religions with its courthouse grounds policy, breaking the Establishment Clause in the Constitution.

“It was certainly an inappropriate thing to say to compare conscientious citizens in Loudoun County, who are trying nothing else but to defend the Constitution, to compare us with the worst people on the planet,” Wingrove, a Leesburg resident, said on NBC4.

On Facebook the next day, Wingrove said Reid’s “non-apology” was “at least as offensive as the original insult.”

Evan Macbeth, chairman of the Loudoun County Democratic Committee, condemned Reid’s comments, calling them “irresponsible and offensive.”

“In a post-9/11 world, ‘terrorist’ is among the most incendiary terms one can use,” Macbeth said. “To use it in a casual manner, to describe a fellow citizen who disagrees with you on matters of politics or public policy, is irresponsible … ‘terrorist’ is fraught with meaning in Loudoun, where many members of our community forever bear the scars of friends and family lost on 9/11, and of those lost in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“No elected official should ever accuse any American exercising his or her constitutional rights of being a ‘terrorist,’” Macbeth said.


The taxpayer funded courthouse display is underwhelming; maybe the monies would have been better spent on red bows for the equally plain light pole decor in downtown Leesburg.

Reid is selective about his (and others’) First Amendment rights.

As someone who used to be a fervent Christian but realized years ago that I could no longer believe what I had been brought up to believe, I really don’t care if I see religious symbols all around me during the Christmas season.

I expect to see such symbols in front of homes and churches, even at shopping centers. Shopping centers, though, tend to avoid using overly religious symbols, especially in an area as diverse as ours, because they know that they will make those people who are not religious or who worship a different god uncomfortable, uncomfortable enough that they may not shop there. In other words, shopping center owners are smart; they know better than to make their customers feel unwelcome by favoring one religion, even the majority one.

The county courthouse is not a shopping center, though, and the Board of Supervisors won’t see their pay cut if they anger some of the citizens. Yes, they may not be voted in next time but as long as they’re backing the majority, they don’t worry too much about that.

So what we have here is true irony. On the one hand, a shopping center, whose store owners owe us nothing as citizens, don’t want to offend people for fear of losing money. On the other hand, the Board of Supervisors, who are directly voted by us, the people, who are supposed to represent all of us, the people, choose to favor one portion of its citizenry over others.

I laugh inwardly when I think about those who think it evil of those who want to keep church and state separate. What would they say if the Board of Supervisors decided to decorate the county courthouse grounds with no Christians display but instead put up statues of Ganesh, Krishna, Thor or Woden?

Frank Jameso - Terrorism involves an act of violence. Not seeing much violence in this case just hyperbole from Reid who knows the county is going to get sued over this and loose.

All court cases against nativities on public land in the last 23 years have found it a violation of church and state.

As an atheist, I’m a “terrorist” who “wants to ruin it for everyone else” by “destroying 1st Amendment rights” and should “petition the BOS for a bust of darwin” Who is apparently my appointed leader. Since I’m an atheist.

So glad I have Loudoun County’s mostly anonymous moral compass to keep me straight.

The courthouse is not the place for religious displays. Which is why I decorated the hell out of my front yard. With Santa…not Darwin.

Isn’t most terrorism based on religious conflict?

Why is it, that we are the only DC area county to have this issue come up every single year ?  It’s really getting old.  And embarrassing.  Look, you don’t go to church to pay for a speeding ticket.  So why would you go to the courthouse to honor your God or my God ?  For the record, I am a firm believer in God.  But, I am also a firm believer in the separation of Church and State.

Sign me up to staff that booth. Don’t know if I’m an atheist or not, but I am an American who supports the Constitution.

Isn’t this the same supervisor who instructed constituents to heckle President Obama at LCHS? 

There are several downtown churches that display religious holiday symbols appropriately on private property.  A simple, lighted tree should have been displayed on public grounds with no cost to taxpayers, either monetarily or controversially.

Reid as usual shows the world what a numbskull he is. Contrary to beliefs this is Government Property paid for by tax dollars and gives the public no right what so ever to put displays up.

What “Democrats,” LC? Do you mean to say that you know the political affiliations of pseudonymous commenters? Are you David Dickinson? Because you are using the same phrases on other sites.

Using “Loudoun County” as your pseudonym fits your delusion that you know what everyone thinks and that you speak for everyone who lives here, though. The truth is that Loudoun is very diverse culturally and religiously. Any one of us may have a reason to visit the courthouse from time to time, and the appearance that our county government provides special privileges to the people of one or two faiths is simply wrong. Our courthouse and our system of justice belongs to everyone, not just Christians and Jews.

What Mr. Reid said about no religious communities objecting to the county-sponsored display of religious symbols is false, as we see here. Many people of faith as well as non-believers find it objectionable. Our faith isn’t something that needs government endorsement to prop it up.

You know what I notice, Loudoun County? That the only people commenting here under their own names are those who don’t want the displays.

And I do think that if the folks who don’t want a religious display on the lawn have to freeze their butts off while saying so, those who do want one should have to stand out there freezing their butts off too. Equity demands it, don’t you think?

“Everyone else has to have an attended display if they want their beliefs displayed there.”

That sounds fine with me. The atheists will get pretty cold standing by their godless displays. But no law has been violated since nothing is preventing them from displaying whatever they want. They are only pissed that Jews and Christians don’t have to stand in the cold.

SkidRow may not be aware that the current board has changed the policy regarding the displays. The previous policy of designating the courthouse grounds a ‘free speech zone’ is no longer in place. What this board has done is to have the county sponsor and pay for a display that includes religious symbols selected by them.

Should any elected official be denied their right to freedom of speech? Of course not, no one has suggested that.

Do we expect better than falsehoods and defamation of citizens from our elected officials? Yes.

“The County is allowing (THE PEOPLE) who own the courthouse lawn the ability to display whatever they wish.”

The County is only supporting Christian and Jewish displays(hell, they even spent $4,000 for them). Everyone else has to have an attended display if they want their beliefs displayed there.

It’s a courthouse, not a church. Take ALL of the religious displays off the property and be done with this nonsense.

God Bless Loudoun County, Virginia.  As for Wingrove saying the County is supporting religions, what a bunch of nonsense. The County is allowing (THE PEOPLE) who own the courthouse lawn the ability to display whatever they wish. If it so happens to be a religious symbol, so be it. That in no way suggests the county is supporting anybody’s religion. These Atheists are always looking to inject their religion of science onto people and trash anybody who thinks otherwise.

Hey Ken, I’m a faithful Roman Catholic and I do NOT support a government funded holiday display on Government Property, aka The Court House Grounds. Your remarks of labeling anyone who oppose this type of government over-reach as a terrorist, is disgusting and disrespectful to the men & women of the armed services who are fighting actual terrorist.

Love It!  Ken Reid says he’s ever so sorry, about his “poor” choice of words.  In other words, he’s sorry someone spotted the Washington Times story, and pointed out that Ken Reid has issues with the public, as in, anyone not lock-stepped in his views.  Bottom line, Ken Reid is proving to be as entertaining as anyone on the Board of Supervisors.  Can’t wait for the next point-of-view from the spokesman of tolerance.

If you look on Reid’s “fan” facebook page, he writes… “I have been taken to task for referring to the militant atheist groups that seek to ban all displays on our Courthouse as “terrorists.” But I sort of apologized to News 4…”

Yeah, and I sort of have respect for you, Reid.

Reid is our modern day Herod. Herod too professed to want to worship the newborn king but in reality just wanted to defend his political power. Herod tried to kill Jesus and Reid appears out to kill Christmas.

The current BOS is displaying religious icons for political purposes and that is offensive to anyone who believes sacred icons should only be displayed by individuals or a faith community.

The constitution does not give county government the right to to dictate to taxpayers what is an acceptable religious display.  Give us back the freedom to decide individually how we as a community want to celebrate the holidays.

Is this guy the best leesburg could come up with for a supervisor. I think not, please someone run against this guy!

“No elected official should ever accuse any American exercising his or her constitutional rights of being a ‘terrorist,’” Macbeth said.

And no American should ever deny another American their constitutional right to free speech. It doesn’t matter that it might be “irresonible and offensive.” it may even be deplorable and asinine. It doesn’t matter that it might be an elected official. Voters can remedy that, if they so choose. Let him show his true character just as the others central to this debacle on all sides are doing. Why can’t he be as big of a windbag and blowhard? In this day and age, do you actually expect better from an elected official?

Ah Reid….why am I not surprised with this gaffe?  By the way, I’m a Christian and I don’t support the plastic displays you are purchasing with my tax dollars.  A simple tree with lights is all that is needed…if people claim they need plastic decorations to celebrate the season then they need to reflect on their true beliefs….materialistic displays vs. the ability to find meaning in the simplest of things.

“‘My comments in the Washington Times were directed specifically at the atheist groups that have been relentlessly pursuing their goal to remove all religious holiday symbols from the courthouse lawn, not all atheists or non-believers,’ Reid said.”

It’s instructive that this clarification is supposed to make his outburst more acceptable, isn’t it? What he means is that “specifically” only those atheists and others who actually dare to advocate for policy change and who express their opinions, all of which they have done entirely within our system of government and with great civility, are to him “terrorists.” See, those atheists who are careful to make themselves invisible and meekly accept their second-class citizenship - those are the kind he likes.

I wonder where we have heard this kind of reasoning before…

Religious symbols don’t belong on the courthouse lawn, period. A simple, lighted Christmas tree, all by itself, would be an excellent community-wide focus of celebration. The local atheist group even offered to donate it, which would have saved the county several thousand dollars. But Reid and his ilk obviously prefer creating controversy. ‘Tis the season.

Reid owes us all a very public, and very sincere, apology.

Separation of church and state = terrorism. Got it.

We prefer the term ‘Freedom Fighter’, Ken.

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