Leesburg, Virginia, - August 1, 2012
In a 6-2 vote, on July 17, 2012, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors ignored constitutional safeguards guaranteeing the separation of church and state when it approved a measure to fund and recognize the placement of religious symbols on the county courthouse during the December holiday season. The vote, cast months in advance of the holiday season, was meant to stifle and forestall any opposition to religious displays on the courthouse grounds, but has had the opposite effect instead.
The Virginia Chapter of the National Atheist Party condemns the board's decision, despite the opinion of the Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli, who stated in 2010 that, "the county is free to communicate its own recognition of holidays, including Christmas, as long as overtly Christian symbols are balanced with other religious and secular ones in a way that communicates to reasonable, informed observers that the county is not making a religious statement." The National Atheist Party maintains that recognition of any faith by the government, via holiday displays or other monuments, is a violation of the First Amendment.
"Including various symbols of faith to be displayed on the courthouse lawn; such as the menorah, a creche, a pentacle, or a flying spaghetti monster as to give the appearance of an all-inclusive community, is deceptive," stated Laura Bucklin, State Chapter Leader of the Virginia Chapter of the National Atheist Party. "The state should not be offering a podium for any religion, be it the dominant one or a minority in the community. No one is prohibiting private homes, businesses or churches from erecting religious displays, for in that setting they are wholly permissible and protected under the First Amendment."
Opponents to the public display of religious symbols maintain that the courthouse is a public space designated for all citizens in a community regardless of race, gender, religion, class, marital status, age or ethnicity. By placing one or several religious displays on a government lawn, the National Atheist Party believe it sends a very clear message that some beliefs are held above others within the community and that the citizens are not equal within the public space.
"The courthouse lawn belongs to all members of the community," continued Bucklin. "The Virginia Chapter of the National Atheist Party hopes the Board's decision will be changed and that the public space, which belongs to all the residents of Loudoun, will be returned to them. No displays of faith should be placed before others. Its particularly disconcerting when these religious displays are placed at the courthouse, which has as its primary function that of upholding and interpreting the United States Constitution."
The National Atheist Party is a non-profit, 527 political organization devoted to issue advocacy and guided by the values of secular humanism and evidenced-based reasoning. The party seeks to politically represent U.S. atheists and all who share the goal of a secular government by gathering the political strength of secularists nationwide.
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