Offensive holiday intentions

John Mileo, a member of the Courthouse Grounds Committee writes that Rick Wingrove, CEO of the Beltway Atheists, is in the process of “rounding up his storm troopers… to persuade the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors… to rule against the inclusion of a creche as part of this year’s so-called Seasonal Display.” The storm troopers – Sturmabteilung, SA, or Brownshirts – provided protection at rallies, disrupted opposing political parties and intimidated Jews during the rise of the Nazis. I fail to see how a half dozen BoS public comment speakers could be compared to “storm troopers”, but I also failed to understand how a small group of prayerful Soulforce youth could elicit a storm trooper-like response from Patrick Henry College for daring to engage students in open dialog.

PHC's "storm trooper" dialog

And here is where the two stories meet. Mike Farris, the only person in the county to actually call for shock-troop-like protection of the fragile ideology fed to his PHC students, is also the constitutional lawyer consultant to the CGC that illegally cleared citizens from its last meeting. Mr. Mileo did not mean to be offensive, forgive him, he didn’t understand what he was doing – channeling the Christianist-right’s ubiquitous persecution complex.

Last December, Prison Fellowship Ministry’s Pat Nolan wrote a letter to the editor with a similar argument, that “neo-pagans [sic] of the SS belittled and mocked all who acknowledged a higher power than the state” and that “[e]ven the simple act of celebrating Christmas was outlawed.” The late Chuck Colson also used Nazi imagery in his “Breaking the Spiral of Silence” DVD to portray, among other “liberal” menaces, same-sex couples as modern day “storm troopers.” Thankfully, “Breaking the Cycle of Silence” was Colson’s final exercise of Godwin’s law.

Creche on the courthouse lawn, 2011

The use of this imagery is offensive, and the Board of Supervisors is planning to allow the CGC to get away with it. At last night’s public input, Chairman York invoked his privilege to indicate that the BoS intends to approve the PHC designed display because it will be similar to the national display at the Ellipse. For me, the content of the display – a creche, Christmas tree and menorah – isn’t the issue. The issue is the intention of the BoS and CGC to establish a phony religious mythology that frames any opposition as threatening, terrorist, and even Nazi. That intention is so offensive that the PHC design should be rejected outright and the BoS should take a timeout to think about what they are doing. Mr. Mileo did. After belatedly consulting a dictionary, he posted the following comment to his own letter:

I have requested that the editor replace the word “storm troopers”, which I was using as a metaphor, with the word “member.”

Thank you Mr. Mileo. Unlike the BoS, your retraction demonstrates a willingness to admit error and change course.

7 thoughts on “Offensive holiday intentions

  1. liz

    I don’t recall that there is a creche in the holiday display on the Ellipse. Is there?

    I totally agree with you that calling peaceful opposition, “storm troopers” is offensive. I am not an atheist, but I do believe that the Court House Grounds are not the proper place to display any religious icons. My family left Russia to escape the Pogroms, they came here because the promise of Government staying out of the business of religion was a beacon of hope and peace to them.

    The Court House is the seat of Loudoun’s government. Religious icons should not be displayed there.

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  3. Ross Patterson

    I’d swear it wasn’t there either, Liz, at least not for the last few years. And that pic appears to be life-size, making it kind of hard to miss. But the National Park Service history page says it was revived over 25 years ago:

    1984 The Ellipse … The nativity scene (creche) was reinstated as being historically and legally appropriate for display during the Pageant of Peace in light of a U.S. Supreme Court decision. The tradition of displaying the nativity scene had been discontinued in 1973, following a decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit which decided an argument based upon U.S. Constitutional rights of religious freedom.
    (http://www.nps.gov/ncro/publicaffairs/chronochristmastreelightings.htm)

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