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Mangers and 'Star Wars' mingle in displays on Loudoun courthouse grounds

"People who preach the First Amendment need to abide by the First Amendment," he said.

That view was echoed by Ken Levesque, a Loudoun resident who set up an atheist display on the grounds facing East Market Street.

"Unattended signs and symbols of a religious nature, including my sign, have no place in the public square," Levesque said. "Unfortunately, the board, under pressure from Christian groups, voted to allow the creche and other religious symbols. . . . My sign is merely an attempt to make proponents of public-square religious displays recognize that their stance opens the door to others expressing opposing religious views in the public square. It is a reminder that freedom of speech and freedom of religion protect all views, not just the majority view."

Charles G. Houston, a member of the Courthouse Grounds and Facilities Committee, said the atheists' displays go too far by mocking the religious beliefs of others.

Last year, he said, an atheist display was stolen soon after it was erected, and he expects that the many members of the public will react with dismay when another atheist display is scheduled to go up on the courthouse grounds Thursday, in the corner spot usually inhabited by the traditional creche.

His hope, he said, is that a more carefully crafted policy might be able to find the right balance between honoring the First Amendment and maintaining a respectful atmosphere on the grounds.

"There needs to be some fine-tuning," he said. "And I'm certain there will be, after events unfold this season."

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