VIRGINIA

'Flying Spaghetti Monster,' Santa on cross join nativity scene In Loudoun County

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It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas in downtown Leesburg.

Look, it's the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Photo: Mike Conneen/ABC7

But for several years, holiday displays outside the Loudoun County Courthouse have triggered controversy in a battle between Christians and atheists.

Starting this weekend the displays return to the courthouse, this year competing for even less space and stirring up new tensions.

Outside the courthouse, like it or not, the holiday season includes everyone, and anyone—including atheists.

On a first-come, first-served basis starting as early as last December, local residents could submit a holiday display for the courthouse property.

This year, next to the Christmas tree and nativity scene, residents will see a painting of Santa nailed to a cross, a sign about the fictional Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and a poster describing the Easter Bunny, Jesus Christ and Santa as "myths for young and old."

And there's even more controversy this year. The county's arborist is concerned about the health of a sycamore tree. As a result, the board of supervisors has agreed none of the holiday displays can be set up next to it.

Traditionally, a local man sets up his nativity scene at the very prominent corner of King and Market Streets. But this year, he'll have to move that manger scene to another, less prominent location.

Some complain that the signs are mean-spirited and make a mockery of Christmas.

But others say the First Amendment is clear.

“They have the right of their opinion and we have to respect it,” says George Swicker. “I'm a Christian, my wife's a Chirstian but our Christian generosity says, “’Hey, make room for everybody.”

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