Loudoun County Official Calls Atheists ‘Terrorists’ for Supporting Church/State Separation

Last year, there were nine holiday displays in front of the Loudoun County, Virginia courthouse. They were a mixture of Christian and non-Christian displays — mostly non-Christians ones, surprisingly. Some of the controversy stemmed from the fact that the first nine applicants were all approved, and that included six atheist displays… and a Christian one featuring a crucified Santa Claus. Good times.

One of last year’s evil atheist displays in Loudoun County

Anyway, this year, local officials voted on a new regulation (presumably to dissuade groups from applying to put up displays): If you applied for a spot on the courthouse lawn, you couldn’t leave your display unattended.

That’s a big problem if you’re a Christian group wanting to put up a big Nativity Scene. Either you have to build it up and take it down every single day… or you have to find someone willing to sleep next to the Baby Jesus every night for the next month.

The plan seems to have worked since there has only been one application for a holiday display so far this year…

So far, according to Loudoun County officials, there is just one application for a December display — an information booth run by the American Atheists.

Rick Wingrove, the Virginia director for American Atheists, will have a booth featuring banners with quotations from historical atheists Albert Einstein and John Adams. It will also feature public readings of books such as Charles Darwin’s “The Origin of Species.” Mr. Wingrove also received a permit for his display in November, and has spent weekends this month minding the booth. He does not anticipate that someone will be on the lawn every day in December and, so far, the display has been taken down each evening.

Atheist Rick Wingrove works on his display (Barbara L. Salisbury – The Washington Times)

Local officials like Ken Reid, one of the members of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, are not taking this news very well:

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

That’s just beautiful #ChristianLogic right there. How *dare* you atheists try to prevent the government from establishing a religion? That’s so pro-Constitution, it’s anti-American!

Rick Wingrove, the atheist manning the booth, responded to that comment at The Washington Times:

this “terrorist” is a veteran, a homeowner, a parent, a taxpayer, a small business owner, and a patriot who is engaged in his community, who thinks that the Constitution is the most important document ever penned by Man, and who opposes the use of government power, money, and facilities to perpetrate religion upon the unwilling and the unconvinced.

So, Mr. Reid, no terrorists here. Just Americans trying to protect the Constitution from religious deconstruction. Leave the name calling to children.

This whole problem could be solved if Reid and his colleagues just voted to eliminate all religious displays on the courthouse lawn for good. Until then, atheists will keep working around any regulations put in their way.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Nate Frein

    Ugh.  Loudoun county.

    My first day as a furniture installer had me working their offices.  While waiting for the tractor trailer to arrive, we watched as crews pulled up a perfectly good brick quad to be replaced with identical bricks.  All the old bricks (which looked quite sound) were thrown away.

    • Keith

       Classic government spending – we’ve got the cash, what can we get that’s new and shiny….?

      • Nate Frein

        Loudoun pushes the envelope.  The woman in charge of facilities wanted at least three people from my company on site.  Every day.  Regardless of what work was scheduled (or not scheduled).  I hated going there for day shifts because unless there were five or more guys on the sheet, you were guaranteed to spend at least half the day dozing in a chair while the crew chief and his buddy played xbox.  And all of it got billed to Loudoun.

        I mean, yeah I was getting paid, but the shit was bloody boring.

    • MM

       Loudoun…despite its resident’s feelings of uppity, white, suburban superiority, they are a complete joke to pretty much everyone living inside the Beltway.  “Oh you live in a 7000 sq ft house in Ashburn and drive a Hummer? badass! it must be awesome driving 1.5 hours each way to work when gas is $4 a gallon and tolls are $7 each way.”

      • Unholy_holly

        MM – Generally, one should avoid generalizations.  Just as all atheists are not terrorists, all Ashburnites are not uppity whites with suburban superiority.  I live in Ashburn and don’t know a single person with a hummer.   Yes, there are  McMansions, but perhaps you can take solace in the notion that most of them are under water.  Most people moved here because the schools are good and you can get a nice house for less than “closer in”.  If that is uppity suburban superiority, so be it, but not in the ugly way you represent it.  At least we have some uppity atheists challenging the county’s holiday display rules.  

      • That Guy

        I live in Sterling in a small house with a big yard. I paid less for it than some “yuppie asshole” living  inside the beltway paid for a condo or studio apartment.  To each their own.

  • http://www.facebook.com/don.gwinn Don Gwinn

    Second to last sentence, I think it should say “. . . off . . . ” rather than “on the courthouse lawn for good.

    Frustration makes people say funny things sometimes, doesn’t it?  It’s always odd to have to say, “Hey, pal, you made the rules.  I agree that they’re silly, but I didn’t write them, I’m just trying to follow them.”

  • Stev84

     Remember that this is the same board that has this lunatic:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugene_Delgaudio

    • http://twitter.com/FelyxLeiter Felyx Leiter

      That photo on Wikipedia…worth a thousand words.

      Including the words “floppy,” “balloon” and “penis.”

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

      I thought Loudoun County sounded familiar…

  • Chris B.

    I’m more surprised by the fact that they couldn’t find enough Christians to sleep outside for Jesus in order to have a Christian display.

    • observer

      Poor moral, or laziness?

      • RobMcCune

         Going with the flow of religious conformity requires neither morality or effort.

    • amytales

      Unfortunately, the Board of Supervisors skirted that problem by using public funds to build and display a Nativity scene, menorah, a tree, and Santa and reindeer on the courthouse lawn.  Theirs is the only display that doesn’t have to be attended.

      • http://twitter.com/tardis_blue Tardis_blue

         Oh!  Fuckers!  That’s cheating, and it HAS to be unconstitutional.  That’s totally different from allowing people to put up displays.  Argh.

    • Thing Two

      Christians can’t be bothered to make actual sacrifices in the worship of their sky-wizard.  If it can’t be purchased or enjoyed while staring half-asleep into the abyss of a church ceiling, they’d rather not….

  • DougI

    Does this mean the term ‘terrorist’  has just jumped the shark in terms of over usage?

    • Artor

      It did that years ago, when Shrub declared that pot smokers were terrorists, because they were supporting drug runners in Central America or something.

    • Baal

      By calling things ‘terrorist’, the law enforcers get to invoke patriot act provisions and duck accountability even more.  The prior incarnation of accountability roll backs were in support of ‘the war on drugs.’   The next excuse to roll back our rights will come in about 10 years.  We’ll have either a China scare or a ‘must have security state’ in response to getting in over our heads in a dual war with Syria & Iran.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sandy-Kokch/100000074576649 Sandy Kokch

      Modern day USA is the land where words have little meaning, and what meaning they do have is washed away through over-application.

      Terrorist is one…… Hero is another.

      I could also add “socialist”, “Nazi”, “fascist” and just about every other political term to that list.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Pj-Crepeau/1183389480 Pj Crepeau

    Let’s tell Ken Reid what we think of him!

    Ken.Reid@Loudoun.gov

  • Mej

    Ask yourself, what percentage of “real” terrorists support *unification* of church and state?

    Quite a few, right?  How did this guy get his job?

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      “How did this guy get his job?”
      Probably by appealing to the ignorance, fear, and hatred of the voters. Standard political procedure.

  • amytales

    Good for Rick and NOVA Atheists.  By the way, in addition to the rule that no displays can stand if not attended, the Board of Supervisors also decided to pay $4,000 for and erect their OWN holiday display, which will be the sole exception to the attended display rule.  They decided that a display including a Nativity scene, Menorah, a tree, and Santa and reindeer was “tasteful” and covered all their bases.  Apparently they decided that our secular values are best represented by Santa and the reindeer.

    • http://twitter.com/cr0sh Andrew Ayers

       They really think that if they pay for -their own- display as government officials, that they -won’t- be endorsing some kind of religion? So far, I see three: Christianity, Judaism, and the Dollar (seriously, our modern concept of Santa began and continues to be nothing more than a consumer marketing ploy). What about other faiths? They really don’t get it, do they?

  • eric

    The local news coverage of this event is incredibly poor and frustrating.  This is the first place I’ve seen that actually discussed the (evolution of the) regulations for displays.  The vast majority of coverage appears to focus on the supervisor’s name calling and last year’s Santa-On-The-Cross display.  I scanned four different news channels last night and none of them talked about the actual constitutional issues surrounding such displays.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    The way the Washington Times article is worded is confusing, leaving me unsure if the atheist information booth is up and being manned now, or if it will be in December. First there are statements that it “will” be on the site and “will” feature displays and readings, but then it says, 

    “Mr. Wingrove… has spent weekends this month minding the booth. He does not anticipate that someone will be on the lawn every day in December and, so far, the display has been taken down each evening.”

    So is the information booth up and manned right now, or not? If it is, I’m interested in how many people are coming up to the booth showing interest in the information.

    • amytales

      I think it has only gone up once so far just before Thanksgiving (I and a number of others were there for a while, and people did stop by when walking through town).  I think the next day it will go up is a week from Saturday.  Definitely not an every-day thing.  They put up a nice sturdy canopy and have some good literature and little trinkets, and people are taking turns staying with the display to answer questions and talk to anyone who stops by during the day before it is taken back down again.

      • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

        Thank you. I hope it provides an opportunity to dispel misconceptions about atheists and to humanize our image.

  • Anarus81

    I personally know Ken Reid….he is shockingly unintellectual and enjoys the sound of his own voice over that of the constituents of our town. 

    • Unholy_holly

      I’m finding conflicting information – Hemant’s post refers to Reid as a Christian, but Reid’s bio in the Loudoun County website says he attends a synagogue, which would make him Jewish.  Do you have any insight? Not that it really matters.

      • Hemant Mehta

        I doubled checked and it looks like you’re right. He’s Jewish. I’ve fixed it in the post. My mistake.

  • Russian Alex

    Nah, Ken Reid. We prefer the term “freedom fighters.”

  • Aspieguy

    I simply don’t understand why nativity scenes aren’t displayed on church property or other private property. There are a lot more churches than city properties. Why does it always have to be public property?

  • Asdfasdfasd

    Southerners are fucking idiots. Every single one. No exceptions.

  • Bill

    Thank you for your efforts, Rick.


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