Virginia Holiday Battle Includes Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

Rick Wingrove took this photo in front of a display on the Loudoun County Virginia Court House lawn in Leesburg, Va. (Courtesy: Rick Wingrove)

A number of tongue-in-cheek nativity displays on a  Virginia county courthouse lawn has divided the tight-knit community Leesburg right before the holidays and created an unusual scene.

Beside a Christmas tree and creche sits a large banner with a nativity scene in which baby Jesus has been replaced by a plate of spaghetti with googly eyes. A crowd that includes pirates and gnomes surrounds Jesus. At the bottom its message reads "Touched by an Angelhair." The scene is the work of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monsters.

Near the courthouse fence is  another display whose sign reads "Greetings From Your Friendly Local Atheists." It's message is about celebrating the Constitution and honoring the separation of church and state.

Elsewhere on the lawn, a skeleton in a Santa suit hangs on a cross.

This has all become part of a battle that has many outraged.

"People are just horrified by this. It's just created a lot of division, a lot of angst and a lot of people are upset," Kenneth Reid, Loudoun County supervisor-elect for the Leesburg district, told

Reid has been vehemently fighting the atheist groups that are behind the decorations and says the displays are destroying people's holiday spirit. Reid is Jewish and says he is very open to other faiths. But he believes the Leesburg atheists are forcing their beliefs on others.

"Nobody is out there preaching like these guys. They're out there in a blatant attempt to try to stamp out religion and ruin people's Christmas," Reid said. "The atheist groups over the past two years have used it as an opportunity to try to ban everything. It's no longer sufficient to be an atheist, they have to go out there and proactively try to deny and make sure other people don't believe in God."

When Christians were allowed to display a Christmas tree and creche on the courthouse lawn, atheist groups objected, saying the display violated the separation of church and state.

A skeleton wearing a Santa costume on a cross is on display at the Loudoun County Courthouse. (Photo courtesy: Ken Reid)

Reid's predecessors realized that the only way to allow the Christian decorations was to open up the lawn to all faiths, including the atheists.  And so began the battle on the lawn.

The atheist groups deny Reid's accusations.

"The whole thing is a separation of church and state issue. We've been accused of trying to destroy Christmas, and that could not be further from the truth," Rick Wingrove, the Virginia state director for American Atheists, told "There's no war on Christmas. If there were a war on Christmas, I would have gotten a memo."

The Loudoun County board of supervisors proposed a ban on all decorations, aside from the Christmas tree, but could not get enough votes. So, the decorations will stay up.

"I think it's fair, and even if it's unfair, it's protected," Wingrove said. "Provocative is still protected."