RICHMOND, Va. – Local governments can offer religious holiday displays, provided other beliefs are allowed to display their holiday symbols, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli wrote in an advisory opinion.
Cuccinelli publicly released the opinion Tuesday, responding to a request by Del. Robert G. Marshall, who asked under what conditions Loudoun County would be permitted to display the “birth of Jesus Christ.”
In his response, Cuccinelli said a local government can erect Christmas displays on public property as long as other faiths and beliefs are represented.
In an opinion loaded with footnotes, Cuccinelli wrote that Loudoun County “is free to create a nondiscriminatory forum for recognition of holidays, including Christmas, if it makes clear that the county itself is not communicating a religious message.”
In an opinion issued Friday, Cuccinelli said local governments are “never categorically compelled to prohibit holiday displays.”
“Holiday displays at government facilities may include depictions of Jesus along with “candy canes,” Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli says.”
“… The county is free to communicate its own recognition of the 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.
“Because secular symbols can insulate innately religious symbols from constitutional attack, decoration of public buildings with such secular items such as lights, candy canes, poinsettias, fir trees, snowflakes, and red and green ribbons should raise no serious constitutional objection.”