By Simon Brown
During this season that is often referred to as a time for giving, a Virginia woman gave a local artist a piece of her mind – and did so in a very inappropriate way.
Mary Czarnecki of Leesburg, Va., was so upset by a display outside the Loudoun County Courthouse of a skeleton dressed in a Santa Claus suit and hanging on a cross, that she disassembled it and placed it on the ground.
The display was created by Jeff Heflin Jr., who described it as “art work of Santa on a cross to depict society’s materialistic obsessions and addictions and how it is killing the peace, love, joy and kindness that is supposed to be prevalent during the holiday season.”
Heflin is not affiliated with an organization and sponsored the exhibition himself. Anyone can apply to put up a display outside the courthouse as long as he or she gets approval and is among the first ten applicants.
This policy is the result of an earlier controversy. In 2009 the county's Courthouse Grounds Facility Committee decided not to allow any displays outside the courthouse including a creche that was displayed there annually.
Creche fans didn’t like that idea much, so a few days later the decision was overturned and all sorts of displays were allowed on courthouse property. It was an all-or-nothing approach, and that’s pretty darn fair.
But don’t tell that to Czarnecki, who doesn’t seem to understand the concepts of fairness, religious liberty or free speech.
“I was deeply offended,” Czarnecki said, according to The Washington Post. “It felt like a spiritual assault. The cross is a symbol that Christians and non-Christians recognize. Nobody has the right to put up such a thing. If you deliberately attack a religion, it was threatening.”
Unfortunately some other citizens of Leesburg agreed with Czarnecki. After Heflin’s display was fixed, someone else came along and tore it down again. Czarnecki hadn’t damaged it, but the later Santa bashers did – and they stole a portion of the artwork.
Worst of all, Czarnecki told The Post that Heflin doesn’t even have the constitutional right to put up such a display.
“I don’t think that’s correct [that Heflin has that right],” Czarnecki said. “Nobody can put whatever they want.”
While there’s no question that some types of displays would not be protected by the Constitution, Heflin didn’t cross that line. Contrary to what Czarnecki said, by his own explanation Heflin wasn’t trying to be hateful or degrading to Christianity.
And if county officials didn’t see any problem with his display, then he had every right to put it up, and Czarnecki and others had no right to tear it down. People who allegedly destroy private property and commit theft are the ones breaking the law, not people who put up approved displays.
Ironically, it seems Czarnecki and the others who destroyed Heflin’s display actually proved his point that our society is short on “peace, love, joy and kindness” during the holiday season.