Christmas time is here, so it must be time for controversies over Christmas displays at the county courthouse. Every year we have one here in Loudon County, Virginia. Having a Nativity Scene, including one that had been donated by a local family and that had become a tradition, would seem to violate the separation of church and state. Even Christmas trees have a Christian association. So surely if the courthouse displays Christian symbols, it would be appropriate to display a Jewish menorah, since Hannukah takes place in the same season. And we had better display an Islamic Crescent, even though no Muslim holidays are really at issue. But now the imperative of being “interfaith” has given way to the imperative of including no-faith and anti-faith displays.
What the county officials did, to solve the annual controversy, was to agree to put up symbols of the first 10 people or groups to apply for a space. So here is what we ended up with:
- The Welsh family nativity scene
- A sign calling Christian figures “myths” and promoting the Loudoun Atheists submitted by a Leesburg resident
- A banner promoting the separation of church and state by American Atheists and NOVA Atheists, submitted by a Leesburg resident
- A banner calling for “reason in the holiday season” submitted by a Lansdowne resident
- A holiday display possibly including the Tree of Knowledge from a Sterling resident
- A letter from Jesus submitted by a Middleburg resident
- A Santa Claus on a cross to depict the materialistic nature of the holiday, submitted by a Middleburg resident
- Two signs from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, one from a Leesburg resident and the other from a Reston resident
The tenth application, which may or may not be allowed to present a display, is Christmas-themed and submitted by Potomac Falls Anglican Church.
So in this Christmas display, there will be at most three Christian symbols (depending on what the “letter from Jesus” says, and depending on whether the Anglicans get their display accepted). Maybe just one, the traditional Nativity scene. The others will be signs from atheists, either directly attacking Christianity (saying that Jesus is a myth), or mocking God (“the flying spaghetti monster,” which atheists pretend to argue for, as just as valid as the arguments for the existence of God), or just being blasphemous (Santa Claus crucified on a Cross).
If the county is indeed advocating Christianity by allowing displays of its symbols to mark a Christian holiday, then by the same logic the county is now advocating atheism.
Wouldn’t it be better not to have anything? Is there some other solution, such as allowing different religious groups to have displays, but not groups that are, by definition, not religious? Or just leave it to churches to celebrate the birth of Christ, cutting the government out of it, even though that, of course, is what the atheists are trying to achieve?