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Roberts to Brief Supervisors on Holiday Displays

Committee asks county attorney for private briefings on holiday displays proposed for the courthouse grounds.

After receiving a May 14 report from the Loudoun County Courts Grounds and Facilities Committee (CGFC), members of the Board of Supervisors’ Finance/Government Services and Operations Committee (FGSOC) asked that County Attorney Jack Roberts brief board members privately about the holiday displays the CGFC is considering.

CGFC Chair Clint Good briefly outlined his committee’s preliminary recommendations for county-owned holiday displays on the courthouse grounds, including a Christmas tree, crèche, menorah, Santa with sleigh and reindeer, wreaths and garlands. The recommendations include such details as the size and locations of the proposed displays.

FGSOC members had few questions or comments about the appearance of the proposed displays. Leesburg District Supervisor Ken Reid said he preferred that the displays be close together, rather than scattered across the courthouse grounds.

Much of the discussion focused on legal concerns and a in which Roberts gave the CGFC legal advice.

“This is an area with a lot of legal land mines,” Roberts said when asked about the closed session. He said he would like to have a similar opportunity to meet with board members, either in closed session or in individual briefings. Such briefings are legal as long as no more than two supervisors meet with staff at one time.

Supervisor Shawn Williams said to Roberts, “I guess the question I have would be … when Clint comes back and recommends the crèche and menorah, things of this nature that do have a religious element to them, you have vetted those against the case law, against the Attorney General’s—those have been vetted legally.”

“I would like to meet with each of you, give you my candid thoughts on the pros and cons of various approaches,” Roberts replied.

FGSOC chair Ralph Buona said there would not be sufficient time to hold a closed session before the CGFC makes its final recommendation in June. He asked Roberts to give the supervisors private briefings.

FGSOC member Scott York said he was concerned about the CGFC’s May 8 closed session, and that some members of the public and press had been locked out of the building while the closed session was taking place.

Roberts assured York members of the public were invited back into the room in time to hear the CGFC certify that the closed session was held legally. He suggested the committee hold future meetings in the County Government Center, where it would be less likely the public might be locked out of the building after regular business hours.

John Mileo May 16, 2012 at 01:39 PM
Due to content length constraints I was unable to complete my remarks just posted which were to include: Shall the vegans and vegetarians begin protesting that the Turkey is the recognized icon of the Thanksgiving Day, another National Holiday, and therefore insist that its display be accompanied by a stalk of broccoli, under the call for "inclusion"? Just how far should this concept should be carried? Finally, in response to Lonnie H's "war on christmas [sic]" remark, in Loudoun County there is no "War on Christmas,” but instead, there is an apparent "War on Christianity." Just read Larry Mendoza's remark as posted on the NOVA Atheists web page where he states “…I feel there is a need to stand up to christian [sic] tyranny… "
TravisW May 17, 2012 at 04:19 AM
Mr. Mileo, I do not know you nor will I pretend to. I appreciate that you are serving on a county committee and that you are burdened with an unenviable task. No matter the result there are bound to be those who are upset with the outcome. I will add that recently I joined the NOVA Atheist website and I have attended some of NA’s meetings. I have met Mr. Mendoza and a few other members but I do not really know them either. I’m not here to speak on their behalf but rather for myself. It is my hope that this post will provide some insight. To your comment about why Christmas alone should be inclusive. The simple fact is that of all of the observed holidays Christmas is the only one that is seen as a religious occasion. That paired with the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution creates a tension as to exactly how much involvement government should have in the celebration of the event. Let me clarify that I do not oppose Christmas as a national holiday given the large number of Americans that celebrate it but I do stress that any government participation should be secular. Let me further clarify that even without the Establishment Clause it would still be the right of any citizen to speak in opposition to any government policy that they disagreed with. Respectfully,
TravisW May 17, 2012 at 04:21 AM
For my benefit I ask this question of anyone that may read this, what makes Christmas so special that Christians feel compelled to portray the religious aspects of it on public property? I haven’t heard anyone declare there being a problem with Christian churches using their own property for this.
John Mileo May 17, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Travis, I wish to thank you for your well thought out response and for the respectful manner in which you have communicated same, which unfortunately is a far cry from the majority of the comments I have been reading from those who offer an opposing viewpoint. I also wish to make it clear that I do not oppose anyone's right to express his or her opposing viewpoint but do wish that they would do so in a civilized and dignified manner rather than with malice and insults, as many are currently doing. As for the display of a nativity scene or crèche on public property, I don't believe that anyone can ignore the fact about the origins of Christmas. With that in mind, and inasmuch as our federal, state and local governments have opted to recognize Christmas Day as an official holiday, with the closing down of all non-essential government operations (including the Loudoun County Courthouse), I do not understand the objection on placing on the lawn the very display the represents the holiday's origin. Running out of space. See next comment for continuation.
John Mileo May 17, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Travis (continuation). But out of respect to those who cry out that such an action is a violation of the Establishment Clause, we are attempting to tone-down, if you will, some of the religious aspects of a typical crèche by not including such components as: angels and the Latin wording for "Glory to God in the Highest." In addition to this, and in attempting to keep in line with the guidelines handed down by our Commonwealth's Attorney General, and in accordance with case law, we are ensuring that an adequate number of secular items are on display. With all of this controversy over the creche, what I simply do not understand is why are the same folks who are voicing their angry objections about it , are silent when it comes to the public display of the Jewish religious symbol for Hanukah, "The Menorah," which in the case of the one on the national ellipse is alit each year by a Lubavitch Rabbi. And mind you, Hanukah is not even a recognized as a government holiday! There appears to be somewhat of a disparity here, in my view; By the way, I am not advocating the start of any such protest but simply pointing out the obvious biasis that exist! Please also recognize that Board Chairman York is simply attempting to mirror, so to speak the major holiday displays that are on the ellipse. In closing, I again want to thank you for the dignified manner in which you have presented your position and I do wish you well. Respectfully, John Mileo

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