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December 20, 2011

Baby Jesus gets company

For fifty years, Loudon County courthouse in Leesburg, VA had just a crèche and a Christmas tree on the grounds.

[I]n 2009, a courthouse-grounds committee, concerned about a growing number of requests to use the public space, decided that Loudoun should ban all unattended displays on the property.

Public outcry was fierce and emotional. Residents poured into the county boardroom wearing Santa hats and religious pins, pleading with county leaders to respect their freedoms of speech and religion. The board ultimately decided to allow up to 10 holiday displays on a first-come, first-served basis. Applicants got in line.

You can imagine what happened. Similar to what happened in Santa Monica when public spaces were allotted by lottery, many people got into the spirit of the season.

Then came the atheists. And the Jedis. And the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster -- each with its own decorations. A skeleton Santa Claus was mounted on a cross, intended by its creator to portray society's obsession with consumerism. Nearby, a pine tree stood adorned with atheist testimonials.

Flying Spaghetti Monster devotees are scheduled to put up their contribution this weekend. It's a banner portraying a Nativity-style scene, but Jesus is nowhere to be found. Instead, the Virgin Mary cradles a stalk-eyed noodle-and-meatball creature, its manger surrounded by an army of pirates, a solemn gnome and barnyard animals. The message proclaims: "Touched by an Angelhair."

Will Christians fight back next year to regain exclusive rights to put up displays on public property? Stay tuned.

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