The War on Christmas: Be Careful What You Pray For

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Photo: adam smigielski/adam smigielski

The Washington Post had a great story this weekend about the war on Christmas in Leesburg, Virginia. Leesburg, like many towns, had nativity scenes on public property every December. In 2009, unable to adjudicate between the claims of various religions, it decided against any sectarian displays. This led to an outcry from pro-nativity demonstrators who cited “freedom of speech” and “freedom of religion,” after which the county backtracked and decided to allow any religious display on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The result, however, was not quite what the traditionalists had hoped for:

For the better part of 50 years, a creche and a Christmas tree were the only holiday displays on the Loudoun County Courthouse grounds.

Then came the mannequin Luke Skywalker and signs celebrating the winter solstice. This month, a skeleton Santa Claus was mounted on a cross, intended by its creator to portray society’s obsession with consumerism. A pine stands adorned with tinsel — and atheist testimonials. (“I can be moral without religion,” one declares.)

Members of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster 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, and the manger is surrounded by pirates, a solemn gnome and barnyard animals. The message proclaims: “Touched by an Angelhair.”

Townsfolk who want the old way back are furious. They’re angry, of course, because what they want is not freedom of expression — even defining that freedom, preposterously, as the right to commandeer public lands for sectarian messages. What they actually want is for the government to favor the majority religion.