Editor, Leesburg/Ashburn Patch:
Supervisor Ken Reid (R-Leesburg), in defense of Eugene Delgaudio – currently the subject of a criminal investigation – opined recently that his colleague has been singled out for criticism because of his "views." It was a curious statement, since everyone who has been critical of Mr. Delgaudio has made it clear that it is his behavior, not his “views,” that are unacceptable in a public official. We expect in a democracy that citizens will disagree with some of the views held by our representatives, and vice-versa. However, when a public official descends to the level of name-calling and defamation of the citizens he or she is supposed to represent, we are no longer talking about differences of opinion; we are now talking about a distinct behavior that is irresponsible, unprofessional and beneath the dignity of any elected office.
I now know why Mr. Reid chose that particular wording in his defense of Mr. Delgaudio's abusive behavior toward citizens: He engages in the same behavior himself. In a recent interview, Mr. Reid did not simply express his disagreement with a group of law-abiding citizens who are part of our community; he referred to them as "terrorists."
Mr. Reid is free to express his belief that religious symbols should be displayed on our courthouse grounds during the holiday season, and that the U.S. Constitution permits such a display. He is free to believe that atheists are wrong not to join him in his belief in God, and he is even free to be offended by it. He is not free, however, to engage in slander and falsehoods. "Terrorists" are people who use violence and the fear of violence to force their will on others. By using this term, Mr. Reid is designating all who dare to oppose his religious display policies as beneath contempt, excluding us from the circle of "real" citizens whose opinions matter. He not only owes us – both the atheist community and the many people of faith like me who support their equal right to free expression – a public apology. He owes one to all survivors of actual hate crimes and other acts of terrorism. Shame on a Board of Supervisors that would endorse with its silence such appalling behavior toward citizens by any of its members.