Santa Display Removed Again

The display’s 18-year-old creator intended it as a critique of materialistic society.


The fate of the skeleton Santa remains unknown after it was once again removed from a cross located on the grounds of the Loudoun County Courthouse in Leesburg. As of noon on Tuesday, Dec. 13, all that remained of the public display was the cross.

Janelle Embrey, whose 18-year-old son Jeff Heflin Jr. created the display, said in an email that the Sheriff’s Office has the figure of Santa in its possession.

“We have to call and figure out how to get it back,” she said, adding that “we hope to re-create it once again.”

Embrey is also the creator of the “Letter from Jesus” display, which has also been removed. She said the letter is “in bad shape,” but that she hopes to get a carpenter to build a support system for it.

The Santa display, which featured a skeleton in a Santa suit mounted on a cross, created a stir when it was first erected last week by Heflin.

In his application for a county permit, Heflin said that the display was intended “to depict society’s materialistic obsessions and how it is killing the peace, love, joy and kindness that is supposed to be prevalent during the holiday season.” 

Embrey said her son was inspired by a similar display created by Jimmy Wright, a Canadian artist who erected his display of Santa Claus on a cross in his front yard.

“We decided to do something similar but expand on what he did by making the death of ‘Santa’ more pronounced, by putting our display on public property, and giving it our personal touch in the creation,” she said. She noted that there is a “SkeleClaus” named Jack in the popular movie, Nightmare Before Christmas.

In an email to the county that accompanied the application for a permit, Embrey said that she first discouraged her son from going forward with the display idea.

“But upon discussion, I realize[d] that he is [of legal age] now, and therefore has a right to do his own display,” she said in the email message.

The display when it first went up last week, generating television news stories, letters to the media, and a line of speakers at a Board of Supervisors public comment session, including some speakers who interpreted the display as an attack on Christianity.

Board members also weighed in with their own comments, including Dulles District Supervisor Stevens Miller, who proclaimed the display’s creator as “a jerk.”

An angry resident removed the Santa figure from the cross, but it was back in place last weekend. Since then, it was removed again.

As of mid-day Tuesday, the only complete displays still standing on the courthouse lawn were the traditional nativity scene, a decorated holiday tree, and a sign from Nova Atheists wishing “peace, love, health and happiness for all.”

Patrick Scott December 15, 2011 at 05:59 PM
while I don’t agree with the message.. rules are rules.. he was allowed to put it up and it should be kept up. whoever removes it needs to be charged with vandalism and destruction of private and government property.
MEG December 15, 2011 at 09:21 PM
I agree with Patrick. We may not like the message, but it is still free (and protected) speech according to the laws and Constitution under which we live. When the Board of Supervisors first overturned the decision to ban all displays 2 years ago, it was in reaction to the public outcry from the public. Many supervisors noted that if they allow some, they have to allow all, and the feedback was to "allow them all" if it meant that the Nativity and Christmas tree could still be erected. Now the consequences of the public will are coming to their logical conclusion. Good work, people. You got what you asked for. If you don't like it, be sure to get your application in early for next year's display.
MEG December 15, 2011 at 09:23 PM
Edit: "...it was in reaction to the outcry from the public." Sorry, kept an extra "public" in there.


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