(Photo: courtesy of Brendon Hanley for Leesburg Today)
One Virginia courthouse is taking the debate over Christmas displays on public property to the next level with a controversial “crucified Santa” set-up.
A display of a skeleton in a Santa Claus suit placed on a cross was erected at a courthouse in Leesburg, Va. It was eventually taken down by an anonymous individual.
Julie Grandfield, assistant to the Loudon County Administrator, explained to The Christian Post that the individual responsible for the display went through the system.
“Board of Supervisors currently has a policy in place to allow displays on the courthouse lawn,” said Grandfield.
“There are only 9 display sites that are filled on a first-come, first-serve basis. The applicants choose the 3 week period they want to have their display shown.”
Grandfield also said that among the displays approved, there would be two nativity scenes that will be put up “later in the month.”
She declined to comment on whether or not the display was tasteful, saying that it “is a matter of subjective opinion.”
“I choose to not to answer the question either as a citizen or as a representative of the county government,” said Grandfield.
The display was submitted by a high school student named Jeff Heflin, whose mother belongs to NOVA Atheists, a Virginia chapter of the national organization of American Atheists.
Heflin and others who support the “Crucified Santa” display argue that it is meant to convey that the spirit of the holiday was killed off by commercialism.
“The display was erected by a local atheist, but did not speak to any strictly atheist theme,” said Rick Wingrove, a member of NOVA Atheists, in an interview with CP.
“It was an art piece reflecting on the death of the true spirit of the holiday by greed and commercialism. It was anything but an attack on religion. It was, ironically, in line with a common complaint in the religious community about the hijacking of the holiday by big box retail interests.”
Despite the words of support, an unknown person vandalized the display, removing the skeletal Santa from the cross.
During the County Board of Supervisors public hearing on Monday, many residents spoke out against the display, considering it deeply disturbing and offensive.
Supervisor-elect Ken Reid sent out an email to local media denouncing the display as “utterly offensive,” especially to children.