Loudoun County Saves Christmas - Again

By Matthew Stabley
|  Wednesday, Sep 8, 2010  |  Updated 11:46 PM EDT
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Supervisors uphold a policy allowing religious displays on the grounds of the <a title=Loudoun County courthouse." />

Supervisors uphold a policy allowing religious displays on the grounds of the Loudoun County courthouse.

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Residents Speak Out In Loudoun Holiday Display Debate

Loudoun County residents testify during a hearing about whether to allow religious displays on the grounds of the Loudoun County courthouse.
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The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors voted in favor of allowing holiday displays on the county courthouse grounds.

And that's the last the board wants to say about it.

With an 8-1 vote, the board continued a policy of equal access to placing semi-permanent displays in 10 designated areas, and the chairman of the board said that's this board's final word on the matter, News4's Jane Watrel reported. If the next board wants to take up the issue again, they're welcome to it.

Last year, the Facilities and Grounds Committee ruled to cancel the Rotary Club's traditional courthouse Christmas tree, saying it was following county government policy against displays on county grounds. The board overturned the ban, allowing the tree and other holiday displays, but the debate has continued through the year.

This year, Facilities and Grounds suggested only one seasonal display be allowed and that it be sponsored by the county.

Some recommended banning the displays because they feared the process will become burdensome and the now-controversial displays will be vandalized, the Associated Press reported.

Last night, the board heard public comment on the matter. Dozens of residents signed up to speak. Some argued in favor of the displays for honoring God. Some argued such honors should be restricted to private or religious property.

Resident Ellen Birch expressed concern over the cost to tax payers for repairing any damage to the grounds that could come with the displays. Jerry Nicely had a different spin.

"Personally, I don't feel like God needs a dog and pony show," he said. "But on the other hand, if you can turn a profit on this for Loudoun County, well boo-yah to ya."

Today's vote allows the unattended religious and secular displays that can be left in place for up to three weeks. Anyone can apply for a display, but the displays will be limited to those 10 sites.

Also, applications for displays can be filed no earlier than one year before the display would begin.

So far, the Office of the County Administrator has received six applications for displays -- five for the holiday season.

It has received one application from an atheist group and one promoting a religion based on the Jedi Knights from the "Star Wars" movies, the AP reported.

No word on whether a Festivus pole will be erected on the historic courthouse grounds in December.

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