First Amendment

Courthouse Holiday Display Includes 'Star Wars' Message and Atheist Contributions

Updated: The holiday display at a courthouse in Leesburg, Va., includes a Star Wars message and five atheist contributions under a new policy that grants permits for 10 displays on a first-come, first-served basis.

One display is a large “letter from Jesus” appealing for kindness and civility that was written by an atheist, the Washington Post reports. Leesburg Today has photos of the letter, which advises: “Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way my birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home.”

The Star Wars display, set to be erected Saturday, will be a poster that reads, “May the force be with our troops … this holiday season,” according to the Leesburg resident who applied for the permit, Eric Santiago. He tells the ABA Journal the Washington Post got it wrong when it reported his display would feature “the chosen one” Luke Skywalker.

Santiago told Leesburg Today the Jedi display is intended to “highlight the ridiculousness of courthouse displays.”

Other displays feature a Christmas tree and three manger scenes.

This year’s holiday display policy has been debated by Loudoun County’s Board of Supervisors since last November, when a committee recommended a ban on unattended holiday displays, the Post says. After an uproar over a denied application for a Christmas tree display, the county board approved the present policy, resulting in more controversy. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli wrote an opinion that religious displays are permissible on courthouse grounds. Public hearings were held, and the board affirmed its first-come, first-served permit policy.

Updated on Dec. 15 to include new information on the Star Wars display.

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