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'Crucified' Santa skeleton is decapitated

NBCWashington.com

This vandalized display is one of 10 allowed to stand in front of the county courthouse in Leesburg, Va.

After being resurrected Friday night, a crucified skeleton Santa was decapitated on Saturday in Leesburg.

The red-robed skeleton had been vandalized once before and taken down, but the owners, a Christian teenager and his atheist mother, replaced it Friday evening.

The display was one of 10 citizen-made holiday displays approved to stand outside the Loudoun County courthouse. Applications to place one of the displays are made on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Last week, the skeleton Santa touched off a debate on free expression in Leesburg, Va. Some said it was offensive, while others argued that it was an important statement on the holiday season. It was put up on Monday, and shortly after, was torn down.

"Clearly some people from the Christian community do not respect the free speech rights of others," Rick Wingrove, the Virginia director of the group American Atheists, said about the most recent vandalism. On Saturday, several other atheist-made displays were outside of the courthouse, but none of the others featured a crucified Santa Claus.

Some say that the skeleton Santa is an inflammatory image, and county officials met to decide whether the policy of allowing holiday displays in front of the courthouse should be changed.

Read the original NBC Washington report

"I just think that these folks are trying to ruin the holiday spirit in the name of the first amendment," Leesburg councilmember Ken Reid told News4. "They are just very disrespectful of the community."

The skeleton Santa was not knocked down this time, but its red-hatted skull was removed in the lastest incident. After a discussion last Tuesday, county officials decided to let the holiday displays stay, atheist or otherwise.

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