Skeleton Santa Controversy at Loudoun County Courthouse

Controversial holiday display vandalized in Leesburg

Holiday music, holiday lights and holiday sales are unavoidable the first week of December, but tisn’t really the season without a holiday display controversy in Leesburg, Va.

A skeleton dressed in a Santa suit and nailed to a cross was set up on the Loudoun County courthouse lawn in Leesburg on Monday.

The macabre Kris Kringle was one of the nine approved displays for this Christmas season, but it was not standing for long.  Someone tore the skeleton down, sparking a debate about free speech.

It's not a new argument. In 2009 Christmas displays on the courthouse lawn were banned after the constitutionality of a Nativity scene was questioned.  Last year that decision was overturned and 10 displays were allowed on the lawn based on a first come first serve basis.

Leesburg Council member Ken Reid spoke out strongly against the skeletal Christmas display.

"I think that it's just extremely, extremely sad," he said, "that somebody in this county who would try to basically debase Christmas like this.  This really crossed the line."

After laying face down in the grass for several hours, the Santa-suited skull and bones was taken away on Monday night by the mother and son from Middleburg who had put the display together.

The son, a high school student and Christian, did not intend it to be an attack on religion but an attack on how addictions and materialism are "killing the peace, love, joy and kindness that is supposed to be prevalent in the holiday season."

"The message to me at least," said Jonathan Weintraub, of the group NOVA Atheists, "is that the meaning of Christmas, which is about faith and family, is dead and has been replaced by commercialism."

The display was discussed Monday night at a Loudoun County Board of Supervisors meeting, where it was labeled "provocative" and "obscene."  In the meeting, some suggested a complete ban of public displays in front of the courthouse.

County officials decided on Tuesday that despite the incident, the displays in front of the courthouse would continue.  The existing policy will remain in place, News4's Julie Carey reports.

More displays will go up this weekend.  The mother and son who put up the crucified Santa said they plan on resurrecting their display, too.

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