RICHMOND, Va. — Local governments can display religious holiday displays, provided other beliefs are allowed to display their holiday symbols, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli wrote in an advisory opinion.
Cuccinelli publicly released the opinion on Aug. 24, 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.
"It is further my opinion that displays depicting the birth of Jesus Christ are permissible provided the government ensures appropriate content and context," Cuccinelli wrote to Marshall in an opinion date Aug. 20.
Marshall, R-Prince William, asked Cuccinelli whether localities are compelled to prohibit holiday displays under state laws or the state and federal constitutions.
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."
He said it could achieve that by balancing Christian symbols "with other religious and secular ones in a way that communicates to reasonable, informed observers" that the county is not making a religious statement.