Atheist Displays Jesus Letter At Courthouse | News
LEESBURG, Va. (WUSA) -- The first of 10 displays is up at The Loudoun County Courthouse lawn in Leesburg.
The controversy started more than a year ago with the recommendation to ban all displays.
Some fought for separation of church and state and others wanted freedom of speech.
But board members tried to put the controversy behind them by limiting the number of displays to 10.
9NEWS NOW found people walking by the courthouse and stopping to read the display put up by Northern Virginia Atheist member Jenelle Embrey.
Embrey decided to go the less controversial route and have a letter on peace displayed. There are 10 points that include: writing letters to the military, forgiving people who have hurt you, and taking action instead of complaining.
The letter ends with: 'I love you, Jesus.'
Embrey says, "I prefer to think of my religion as kind with an open mind. It is my hope that when people are angry when they see the other displays that they would see mine and bring them back to peace and an open mind."
Embrey says there was so much anger toward her atheist group that she took it upon herself to write a peaceful display.
Steven Thompson and Eric Larson stopped to read the display. "That was written by an atheist? I did not know that. Maybe there is hope for them."
Both said they liked the display and said it was the fundamental right of freedom of speech to do so as long as the government allowed it.
When Embrey was asked if this was giving in to what she doesn't believe she responded, "I was appealing to Jesus followers. Some people may think the person who wrote it is Christian but I don't care."
It's been a decades long tradition of displaying a nativity scene and Christmas tree at the courthouse grounds. In recent years, there's been a Menorah and Sikh prayers.
It fired up the debate over separation of church and state and freedom of speech.
Embrey says the age old debate is not over, but says the county opening up to all displays is a happy middle ground.
Her favorite line in her letter? It's the second sentence that says, 'just get along and love one another.'
Mike Schwab is from Ashburn and says the letter is in the holiday season. "I like it."
Perhaps Jenelle Embrey will accomplish what she set out to do by hoping for peace and openness, but then again, there are 9 more displays yet to appear on the courthouse grounds.
All the owners of the display had to fill out an application. There were 10 applicants for the 10 display limit. The county says no hate groups applied.
The displays will be up for three weeks.