- Mystery sign poster hits Washington state town: ‘It’s OK to say Merry Christmas’
- Pope Francis forms commission to advise on sex abuse
- Anthony Weiner on radio? Cumulus says, ‘Never, ever’
- Executive order: Obama ups green-energy mandate on feds to 20 percent
- GOP launches candidate training: How to talk to women
- N.Y.’s Rockefeller Center lights up, as Bloomberg flicks on 76-foot Christmas tree
- Northern Ireland turns to ‘Game of Thrones’ to draw in tourists
- Washington woman live-tweets husband’s horrific car death
- China City of America mulled for New York — with $65M tax dollars
- Yemen defense ministry rocked by suicide bomber, gunfire
Santa-skeleton-on-a-cross figure sparks jeers
A Santa Claus skeleton draped across a crucifix on Loudoun County property sparked outcry Tuesday from as far away as California and prompted local leaders to demand a change in First Amendment interpretation.
Jeff Heflin Jr.’s holiday display on the county courthouse lawn is no longer standing, but Leesburg officials said their phones continued to ring off the hook with complaints about the ghoulish figure.
“I think it is horribly offensive,” said Leesburg Mayor Kristen Umstattd. “It’s a tragedy because we really try to make the holidays something special for our residents. So for this to happen, it’s a slap in the face of Leesburg.”
Short of directing the outraged phone calls to the county’s Board of Supervisors, the Leesburg town council has no authority as to what can be displayed on the county property, which also happens to be in the heart of the historic town.
Disagreement about holiday displays are not new in Loudoun, which in 2009 lifted a ban on courthouse displays and allowed “equal access” to the grounds. Last year the county’s Board of Supervisors approved 18 general rules for use of the courthouse grounds, including during the holiday season.
There is room for only nine displays so the spots are handed out on a first come, first served basis, said Julie Grandfield, assistant to the county administrator. Applications are not censored, Ms. Grandfield said, because of “a First Amendment right.”
According to Mr. Heflin’s application, the message behind his display was to “depict society’s materialistic obsessions and addictions” and how they are killing the true message of the holiday season.
A call to Mr. Heflin’s residence was not returned.
Among the other applications this season were several to set up a Nativity scene, a sign to promote atheism, a sign to make clear the separation of church and state, and for a holiday message from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
Ken Reid, a member of the Leesburg Town Council, spoke out against the Santa Claus skeleton display, which he recently called “disgusting and reprehensible.”
“My major concern was the impact this would have on young children and Leesburg’s annual Christmas and Holiday Parade, despite the stated intent of the folks who posted it,” Mr. Reid said Tuesday. “I urge groups to put sensible displays on the courthouse lawn and not turn the holiday into a spectacle.”
Ms. Umstattd said she has asked town staff to look into whether there are any hate-crime statutes that could be applied to resolve future issues with holiday displays.
“This is a degeneration of people’s religion,” she said. “We’re a very inclusive community and we do not believe that Christianity should be mocked, especially not a government property.”
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Meredith Somers is a Metro reporter for The Washington Times. She can be reached at email@example.com.
- Va. attorney general vote recount, some by hand, to get started Dec. 16
- Wal-Mart opening its doors in D.C.
- Agreement in D.C. a tall order
- P.G. police ID man fatally shot after party
- National Zoo's female giant panda cub finally gets a name: Bao Bao
Latest Blog Entries
- CURL: 'Mission Accomplished' for Obamacare
- American teacher shot and killed at Benghazi international school
- NAPOLITANO: Liberty, the wellspring of capitalism and charity
- 'Hunger Games' delivers Obama's message on income inequality
- Pentagon may give recruits 'a shot to start over' after shameful social media posts
- Democratic infighting erupts over 'we can have it all' fantasy on entitlements
- HARPER: 'Knockout game' not a myth to liberal Sharpton
- Obama returns to class warfare as poll numbers plunge
- Hack attack: 2 million Facebook, Twitter passwords stolen
- Inside the Ring: China targeting U.S. spy flights amid escalating tensions
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Television commentary, reviews, news and nonstop DVR catch-up by Lisa King Dolloff and friends.
The Constitution: Every issue, every time. No exceptions, no excuses. And how to get from here to there.
A libertarian look at breaking news and political trends by author Tom Mullen.
A stat-head’s outlook, direct from his worn in couch cushion.