LTE: Atheists Actions Nothing Short of Hypocrisy

A reader makes his thoughts about Loudoun’s courthouse holiday display clear.

So now Rick Wingrove, head of the Beltway (NOVA) Atheists, is rounding up his troops so-to-speak (hope this is a non-offensive word) to speak at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors’ Business Meeting against Supervisor Reid’s recent remark, as quoted in the Washington Times, in which he characterized the actions of this group as it pertains to the Loudoun County Courthouse seasonal displays as akin to those of “terrorist.”

While it is obvious that Mr. Reid‘s choice of words was somewhat over the top, and one that he has already expressed his regrets about using, and which pales in comparison to the behavior of the Atheists themselves, the Atheists will take hold of this opportunity to move their agenda forward in the public arena, by highlighting Supervisor’s Reid’s faux pas. 

Of course Mr. Wingrove and friends will ignore the fact that their aggressive, and mocking approach to promote their self-serving interests, oftentimes triggers such knee-jerk characterizations from those whom they openly and harshly criticize. A recent example, was aired on the O’Reilly Factor show just last week, when host Bill O’Reilly called the American Atheists’ President,  David Silverman, a “fascist” right to his face as he was pushing his organization’s so-called “Separation of Church and State” agenda. For the record and as I have repeatedly pointed out in the local media, nowhere in the U.S. Constitution is that term referenced; but more on that later.

What is so interesting about Mr. Wingrove and his organization is that the one thing that comes across crystal clear to all but himself and his group is that their very actions and activities are often wrapped in a shroud of hypocrisy, inconsistency and deception, all in one.

Examples of this include:

  • Wingrove’s public assertions that all the members of the Loudoun County Courthouse Grounds and Facilities Committee (LCGFC) are “Christians,” sans anything to support such a claim, while stating in a written news article that one of its members is a “closet atheist.”
  • Questioning whether Jesus Christ even existed, and therefore implying that the celebration of his birth in the holiday known as “Christmas” is a ruse, while he himself will celebrate (and annually hosts) the entirely made-up holiday of “Festivus,” a holiday that has its roots dating back to 1966, when a writer created this event to commemorate he and his future wife’s first date, which was some decades later the subject of an episode of the sitcom TV show Seinfeld. 
  • The ongoing claim that Wingrove’s organization is not engaged in a “War on Christmas,” while the combative terms of “battle” and “fight” are oftentimes quoted on his organization’s website and in the local press.
  • Mr. Wingrove loudly proclaims that the Beltway/NOVA Atheists had nothing to do with the insulting skeleton Santa display that the focus of much outcry at last year’s so-called holiday displays, which is totally truthful, yet go on his organization’s website to see the photo of how very much he shows his approval of same with his ear to ear grin and thumbs-up sign as he stands near this despicable anti-Christmas icon.
  • Wingrove and company’s so-called Separation of Church and State “fight” appears to be solely focused on Christianity (which by  the way, in and of itself is not a specific religion), while totally ignoring governments’ recognition of other faiths, which on a local level have included Judaism and Hinduism to name just two.
  • Wingrove seems willing to ignore the far more grandiose annual Christmas and Hanukah celebrations that take place in neighboring Washington, DC, which include a formal religious ceremony and utilization of the government’s U.S. Marine Corps band, while voicing his strong objection of a simple and small seasonal display in Leesburg, VA.
  • Larry Mendoza, who is an officer of the local Atheist’s organization, is allowed to speak at a local high school about his organization’s secular-progressive virtues. But ask Larry and friends what how he would react if a member of the local clergy was allowed to do the same thing, as it relates to the matter of Creation by Divine Intervention?
  • The assertion by some within and outside of his organization that they are not seeking publicity, (a recent alleged rationale for why they do not bring their “fight” into the District).  But just look at Wingrove’s latest posting about his plans for his Dec. 8 attended display at the Courthouse Lawn (which is the same day as the Town of Leesburg’s “Christmas and Holiday Parade”) and you will clearly see how he is relishing the thought of being present while many members of the local press will be in attendance.
  • The frequent deliberate act by Wingrove and others within his organization to avoid the use of the word “Christmas,” as though it was some kind of obscenity, by replacing the first syllable “Christ” with other letters of the alphabet or by using the term “Holiday Tree” when in fact it is a “Christmas Tree.”  One of his organization’s officers continues to call the Town of Leesburg’s Dec. 8 parade a “Holiday Parade,” a name I successfully petitioned the Town Council to officially change, along with that of the now-named Christmas Tree, back in 2010.
  • The unsubstantiated claim made by some that the LCGC seasonal display recommendation included a discussion of “top cover.”  No such statement was ever made as is evidenced by the minutes to those meetings which are posted on the county’s official website.

There are so many more examples that can be stated, but in my view what this group needs to recognize are four simple, hard FACTS:

  1. Christmas Day is a federal holiday and has been such since 1870.
  2. The crèche is a legitimate and widely recognized symbol of Christmas and in particular, its very roots.
  3. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states in part that: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment (emphasis added) of a religion…”
  4. The display of this symbol on government property does NOT serve as an act by a government body as it having ESTABLISHED a specific government religion.

Until such time when then American Atheist organization and its affiliates are able to get Congress to revoke the federal holiday of Christmas as such, I would suggest that they sit back and enjoy what it truly represents, which is “Peace on Earth and Good Will to All.”

In closing, Happy Hanukah, Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year to all!

John Mileo
Lansdowne, VA

Larry Mendoza December 03, 2012 at 10:03 PM
3. I believe the founding father's drafting of the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause was designed exactly to avoid the mess we find ourselves today. Remember that the founding fathers were children of the enlightenment, and new the dangers of allowing government to endorse religions...after all people were escaping religious persecution in Europe. So this is how I view the constitution. However, it doesn't matter what I think. What matters is what the courts have established: In BoE of Kiryas Joel Village School District v. Grumet: Souter concluded that "government should not prefer one religion to another, or religion to irreligion." "There is more than a fine line between the voluntary association that leads to a political community comprising people who share a common religious faith, and the forced separation that occurs when the government draws explicit political boundaries on the basis of peoples' faith.
John Mileo December 03, 2012 at 11:34 PM
Kristen. No matter how you slice it, It is still US government propety that is being used in DC. And what about the US Marine Corps band being used in conjunction with the lighting of the Menorah? Does that sit well with you? And Kristen are you saying that when the President or other government official pushes the button to light up the Christmas tree, that he is functioning outside of his official gov't role? Kristen, I repeat Thomas Jefferson's "Separation of Chruch and State" quote never found its way into the US Constitution. Your point with respect to the funding issue which has merit , is well taken.
John Mileo December 03, 2012 at 11:37 PM
The government is not favoring one religion over any other, it is simply recognizing one of its federally-observed holidays with a mix of displays that represent same.
David Weintraub December 03, 2012 at 11:53 PM
No, John. You don't get to change the subject to something you would rather talk about when the facts become inconvenient or embarrassing. I will say that it's fascinating to see your accusations of "insult" by me. I note that there hasn't been a peep of protest from you when the primary advocate of your committee's display has repeatedly insulted me as an individual and my church. I see that the minutes, as posted, from the April meeting of the CGFC also do not reflect the committee's concern over what specific elements the creche design should and should not include, which was a significant part of the discussion. The entire point of that discussion was that the committee had to be careful that the creche not appear "too religious" or there could be legal ramifications. That is the precise phrase that was used. Additionally, the minutes state that Rick Wingrove addressed the committee and advocated "ending all displays on the Courthouse Grounds." In fact Mr. Wingrove advocated the display of "a large, lighted holiday tree without any religious symbols," the same display I have repeatedly suggested that the county adopt. Mr. Wingrove explicitly stated a second time, "we would not oppose that."
David Weintraub December 03, 2012 at 11:53 PM
I haven't carefully compared those posted minutes with my own notes and recordings to determine what else the minutes inaccurately reflect, but I think that when an appointed member of an advisory committee makes public claims that the observations of a citizen are "without merit" simply because those observations do not appear in official minutes, we should all be very concerned about the accurate recording of what are, legally speaking, *public* meetings. Yes, your rationale for wanting to exclude the menorah was as follows, directly from my notes: "If a menorah is allowed, where do you draw the line?" Golly, John, I don't know. I guess you might have to be inclusive of ALL non-Christians. Oh, the humanity.
John Mileo December 04, 2012 at 12:11 AM
Your sarcasm aside, David, which you are kind of an expert at, for the record I have been consistent in my views about government's celebration of the Christmas holiday and how ,until such time as when and if it is revoked as such, it should be duly recognnized with all of the symbols that pay homage to it. This is a view that I have held long before my acting in any offical capacity and one that I will continue to hold. Btw your notes on my remarks pertaining to the Menorah are incomplete. I have made those views quite clear...read a little further.
David Weintraub December 04, 2012 at 12:41 AM
Aside from my closing remark, John, I'm not being sarcastic in the least. Nor have I suggested that you haven't been consistent. I again note that you have failed to address any of my observations and have again tried to change the subject.
Amy Brew December 04, 2012 at 01:36 AM
Mr. Mileo, I think you misunderstand and/or misrepresent the purpose of federal holidays. Technically, the holidays are simply recognized as days off from work for laborers so that people can be with family and reflect--IF they want to--on whatever a given holiday memorializes. It is not proscriptive or coercive--each person can do as he or she pleases during that day, and no one is compelled to do anything whatsoever in order to justify the existence of the holiday. No display of symbols is officially recognized or mandated. For all intents and purposes, the federal (i.e., secular) Christmas holiday--when banks, post offices, and many other businesses close--and Christians' religious observance of Christmas are two very different things. They should not be conflated. I've followed many of your comments throughout numerous articles, and please correct me if I'm wrong, but I haven't seen you reply to the fact that Christians created the Christmas holiday as we know it by highjacking the pre-existing pagan/winter solstice holidays. The holiday's name change and facelift at some point in the past doesn't change the fact that it is not the original product of Christianity. Many people never stopped celebrating the solstice season as they did before Christians entered the scene. In other words, Christians have absolutely no monopoly over a holiday that has historically evolved over centuries and millennia.
Amy Brew December 04, 2012 at 01:38 AM
Please also consider putting away the frequent references to what goes on on the national lawn. As a student of law might point out, that is simply outside the scope of the subject at hand. We are talking about our county and the courthouse lawn. It can be argued that individuals can have greater say and sway at the local level than at the national, for better or worse, and challenging the Board's holiday display policy is part of rightfully engaging in the political process. What happens on the national lawn is simply irrelevant to Loudoun County's current conundrum, though that's not to say that that issue isn't worth a separate discussion. If you're trying to insinuate that what the county is doing is the same as what they do on the national lawn (even though the funding and equal access differences are key and invalidate the comparison) and therefore what the county is doing is constitutionally permissible, you're still relying upon the unproven assumption that what happens on the national lawn is appropriate simply on the basis that it's allowed to continue.
Eric Herrman December 04, 2012 at 02:55 AM
About Martin Luther King Day, the KKK often did have displays and marches on that day, and those marches were deemed protected free speech. But more to the point, it is not about being offended, it is about equality. MLK day is not a day about promoting blacks, but a day promoting someone who fought for equality. On the other hand, the nativity scene is just about promoting Christianity, which happens to be expressly prohibited by the Constitution.
Kristen H December 04, 2012 at 03:39 AM
John, The reason we were so focused on the "top cover" comment isn't the word itself -- as has been mentioned, it isn't even a common phrase. We're focused on the content, actions, and true intent. The phrase just happens to be an expression of the true intent of the committee -- to place a creche on the courthouse lawn without being sued. I understand that the committee tried very hard to come up with a display that could withstand any legal challenges. Of course, I disagree about the level of success. I sat through those meetings with you, and I understand how much effort was put into it. My only concern, really, is why? Why does the courthouse lawn need a nativity scene? Why can't it just have a tree?
Don Wharton December 04, 2012 at 03:57 AM
Well said Larry! The article illustrates the dominionist goals of the worst of Christianity. Free speech is OK to them only if it is Christian speech. They need to learn that we have a pluralist society. If they want respect for their beliefs they need to give us respect for our views. The really important point is that the respect much include keeping specifically religious values out of our governmental proceedures and laws. If they worship in peace and leave others in peace there would be little need for us to demonstrate about anything. That is a lesson that will not be easy for them to learn.
Kristen H December 04, 2012 at 04:08 AM
The US Marine Corps band also plays at state funerals at the National Cathedral in DC, and I don't care if the President wants to speak at a church, so I don't mind when he lights the tree. I also encourage you to read up on how the tree lighting, menorah lighting, and the Pageant of Peace are organized. It is not as similar to the Loudoun County Courthouse issue as the display's proponents are stating. However, as many people have pointed out, this is not the issue. The real issue is whether Loudoun County should be spending taxpayer money to put up a display with religious elements. I haven't yet heard a convincing argument as to why. I believe, as Thomas Jefferson did, that religion is a personal matter. The courthouse is a very public place -- a place where people need to go and a place paid for by taxpayers. There is no reason for any religious items to be there. Even though we're not allowed to put up a Festivus Pole, everyone still has to sit through the Airing of the Grievances.
John Mileo December 04, 2012 at 09:51 AM
Ms.Brew, Please indulge me with this response to you remarks: If one is to assume that your account of the genisis of the Christmas Holiday, replete with the Winter Solstice celebation is acccurate and undisputted, might I ask if you think this is how Christmas Day was actally celebrated in the U.S in 1870 when Congress made it a legal holiday, or do you think it was similiar in character to modern-day times? Personally, I would think the latter. So with that in mind one is left with two options: 1. All folks, businessess, and goverment agencies can simpy contiue celebrating the tenets of modern day Christmas and enjoy the day and the festivites; OR 2. Those who oppose it can lobby or pertition the government to have it revoked with civility and dignty and probably under the guise that the government may have crossed the line when it took a fundamental religious based holiday and turned it into a federal one. But to coninue to do that what is being done now which is trying to change it into somehing it isn't in today's world, is a waste of time that only leads to my grief and agnst.
Larry Mendoza December 04, 2012 at 02:08 PM
John, plain and simply your contempt towards our group and the contempt shown by the BoS towards our minority is reprehensible. You have actively worked to silence our speech, and when that failed completely, you and people like Ken Reid are resorting to lies, distortions, childish name calling and bullying. But unlike school children, we are not deterred by any of this, as a matter of fact this solidifies our conviction to fight for equality and to fight for our constitutional rights.
Amy December 04, 2012 at 03:19 PM
There is a conceptual difference between cultural traditions and the role of the government in recognizing holidays. Christmas is celebrated by individuals however they see fit. In other words, it simply doesn't matter HOW our culture celebrates the holiday. The relevant consideration is the fact THAT the country celebrates a certain day. The government itself doesn't "celebrate"; the only way the government participates in the holiday is by providing protected space for citizens to celebrate however they wish. Just because our culture celebrates a holiday a certain way doesn't mean that the government, in recognizing Christmas, adopts those traditions wholesale or advocates for (much less mandates) their continuation among the populace. There simply is no governmental expectation as to how people spend the day off, nor does it speak to any "tenets" of the holiday that people should either observe or else forfeit their day off from work. The government's act of acknowledging the holiday does not change the nature of the cultural holiday; it simply accommodates the citizenry's tradition of gathering with family, which a day off from work facilitates.
Alex F December 04, 2012 at 03:19 PM
I think there is a better approach to the question. Instead of debating about the origins of Christmas, the correct definition of religion or even the thinking of the guys who wrote the constitution, we should be looking at how to capitalize on the topic and bring much needed tourism dollars to the town. I propose that instead of limiting what can or should be displayed, we open the space to everyone and encourage all groups to contribute their own art. Then we promote our town as sort of the Burning Man of XMas with the goal of making us a tourist destination. These days of limited govt funding and reduced consumer spending have touched us all. Why not use this to bring new dollars to our tow
John Mileo December 04, 2012 at 03:24 PM
I would like to make this my concluding remark by simply stating that I greatly appreciate everyone's discussion on this subject matter which has been most insightfully and informative, and even though all parties are not in accord, it is refreshing to know that we live in a country where we are all allowed to freely express our views. Thanks again, all.
Kevin December 04, 2012 at 09:11 PM
I keep reading that you just want all to be represented. Does the tree not represent all others and the way that they celebrate the holiday, or does the group fighting this not celebrate the holiday at all?
David Weintraub December 04, 2012 at 09:34 PM
Kevin, who is the "you" in your question? It seems that most people would be fine with a simple decorated tree. In fact, the atheist group even offered to donate one. That would have ended the controversy for all but a tiny minority, and cost the county nothing.
Jerry Palmer December 04, 2012 at 10:50 PM
Next year "nothing" on the courthouse lawn, please! This is a total embarrassment for our Leesburg community to have this heated discussion happen "every single year." We are all apparently not well enough equipped to handle the idea of displays on the courthouse lawn. This just causes continual disputes over competing "interests." Let's stop this nonsense and use other means than the courthouse lawn to "make our points" and advertise our causes...
Larry Mendoza December 05, 2012 at 04:56 AM
I completely agree.
Larry Mendoza December 05, 2012 at 04:57 AM
we asked for a tree lighting ceremony that we could all join in. But that's not what they want. They want exclusivity as was clearly shown at today's Board Meeting.
Larry Mendoza December 05, 2012 at 04:58 AM
Yes John, we do live in a country where we are allowed to freely express our views. if you truly feel that way, why did you vote to ban free speech from the courthouse lawn?
Dave Butler December 05, 2012 at 02:17 PM
The fallacy here is that the fact that the federal government "celebrates" Christmas Day as a holiday is somehow significant. Here is the list of everything that is relevant concerning this: 1. Federal workers get a day off. Yep, that's it. There is NO other legal significance to this national holiday. I'm, personally, fine with it continuing to be designated as such because if it weren't most folks would just take it as a day of vacation, so it makes sense. But it's a complete fallacy to tie this fact in with allowing a courthouse to be a Christian advertisement. A place where justice is supposed to be equal for all citizens is used for Judeo-Christian bigotry? It's disgusting, especially in a county as diverse as ours, representing so many different religions. There are significant numbers of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists, as well as non-religious. We should respect all of them.
Dave Butler December 05, 2012 at 02:19 PM
If it was a "science" talk, I hope the gist was Evolution = science. Creationism, et al = not science.
Larry Mendoza December 05, 2012 at 03:08 PM
That is exactly what it was. I made sure the kids understand the difference between SCIENCE and Religious Beliefs.
David Weintraub December 05, 2012 at 03:56 PM
Interestingly, one of the speakers was a young man who identified himself as a member of a Catholic church, I don't recall which one. He seemed to believe that the board might prohibit his church from displaying icons on their own property, and asked them to please not do that. It's interesting because it raises the question of what some of these people are privately telling others in their communities - are they actually spreading the falsehood that churches will be banned from having their own displays? It looks like that might be what they're doing. Since the position of church-state separation is the rational and constitutional one that most people are quite capable of understanding, are the special rights seekers now reduced to making up a new fabricated threat?
David Weintraub December 05, 2012 at 04:04 PM
Exactly, Dave. The meaning of "federal holiday" is precisely the opposite of what Mr. Mileo continues to assert. It couldn't possibly be government endorsement of celebration of any religious aspect of Christmas, by definition. This is an example of someone so blinded by his privilege as a member of "the majority" that he can't see the most obvious and glaring flaw in his argument, even when it's been pointed out to him repeatedly.
Paula December 06, 2012 at 05:33 PM
Thank you, Mr. Mileo -- you speak the sentiments of many.


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