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Mon Nov 19, 2012, 11:42 PM

Santa Monica may bar Nativity scenes in public areas, judge rules

Source: L.A. Times

In a closely watched case, a federal judge denies a church coalition's request that the court require the city to allow Nativity scenes in Palisades Park this year, as it has for nearly 60 years.


Santa Monica may bar Nativity and other seasonal displays in public spaces, a federal judge tentatively ruled Monday.

In a case that has drawn national attention, Judge Audrey B. Collins of U.S. District Court in Los Angeles denied a church coalition's request that the court require the city to allow Nativity scenes to be displayed in Palisades Park this year, as it has for nearly 60 years.

"The atheists won on this," said William J. Becker Jr., an attorney for the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee, a coalition of 13 churches and the Santa Monica Police Officers Assn. Standing in front of TV news cameras outside the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building, Becker predicted that the court on Dec. 3 would also grant the city's request that his group's lawsuit be dismissed.

Read more: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-nativity-atheists-20121120,0,1980006.story



Interesting case. We just studied the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses in con law and it's interesting how difficult it is to avoid violating one or the other. I guess this is probably in the permissible zone, where a municipality may but need not bar such displays in public. It will be interesting to see whether this holds up on appeal.

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Reply Santa Monica may bar Nativity scenes in public areas, judge rules (Original post)
democrattotheend Nov 2012 OP
bowens43 Nov 2012 #1
davidthegnome Nov 2012 #2
murielm99 Nov 2012 #4
SoapBox Nov 2012 #6
pepperbear Nov 2012 #7
awoke_in_2003 Nov 2012 #8
davidthegnome Nov 2012 #12
SunSeeker Nov 2012 #3
Nye Bevan Nov 2012 #5
Scootaloo Nov 2012 #9
Tabasco_Dave Nov 2012 #10
onehandle Nov 2012 #11

Response to democrattotheend (Original post)

Tue Nov 20, 2012, 12:03 AM

1. Good. At least there is some sanity left in the world.

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Response to democrattotheend (Original post)

Tue Nov 20, 2012, 12:09 AM

2. Disturbing

Though I'm agnostic, I think this whole thing is kind of ridiculous. Personally, I've always found the Nativity displays to be pretty, they are usually well done and Christmas has always been a time when I've seen them around. It's sad that the people of this area have bickered their way into not having any displays at all, as I think Christmas is a great time for it. I love the decorations, the lights, I like the Nativity displays as well and I see nothing wrong with having them in a public place. No one is forced to look at them - they do not inflict any harm that I can see.

Seems a little far out to me, but I understand the Judge's ruling, based on the trouble they had with displays in the past. It's a shame that in this case it seems neither group can simply live and let live.

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Response to davidthegnome (Reply #2)

Tue Nov 20, 2012, 12:23 AM

4. Yes, I wish they would live and let live.

Pick your battles, people. The churches that are telling people how to vote, that are teaching people to hate gays and oppress women are the ones that should be fought. Save your energy for that battle.

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Response to davidthegnome (Reply #2)

Tue Nov 20, 2012, 12:51 AM

6. I would say

as long as ALL the displays were honored and respected.

"To keep things fair and legal, the city held a lottery to parcel out slots. Atheists won 18 of 21 spaces. A Jewish group won another. The Nativity story that traditionally took up 14 displays was jammed into two.

A flap ensued. Vandals ripped down a banner the Freedom From Religion Foundation had hung at the park. The banner began: "At this season of the winter solstice, may reason prevail."

...and they were not.

If the various "vandals" can't respect all the displays, the I fully support the City of Santa Monica and say no displays.

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Response to SoapBox (Reply #6)

Tue Nov 20, 2012, 12:57 AM

7. +1....the nativity isn't offensive to me....

it's the idea that, because other ideas can't share the same space, nothing can use the space at all.

That's for children.

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Response to davidthegnome (Reply #2)

Tue Nov 20, 2012, 01:57 AM

8. No, it is not disturbing...

put a nativity scene in your front yard, or in front of your church. Don't put it on public land. How does this persecute your kind?

On edit: yes, I read the line where you claim to be agnostic

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Response to awoke_in_2003 (Reply #8)

Tue Nov 20, 2012, 12:45 PM

12. So...

What exactly are you implying by, "my kind"? Oh I see, where I CLAIM to be agnostic. Now, if you had believed that claim it would have made sense to subtract the "your church" from your first sentence. As you didn't do so, the implication is that I'm lying about my religion. An amusing accusation. I suppose that, if I was a believer, if I did attend church frequently, then perhaps "claiming" to be agnostic might make me seem to have a more unbiased opinion.

While I generally don't bother to play these games - that is, respond to ridiculous accusations without any basis what so ever in reality or actual knowledge... I'm bored at the moment.

I was raised Catholic, my Mother read to me from a picture bible when I was little and I did go to church regularly as a child. It doesn't take long though, to start to question what you have read, what you have learned, in my case it was the glaring contradictions between the old testament and the new. Of course, that was just the beginning, as I've grown older I've learned about evolution, different theories regarding creation - and how damnably unlikely most of the stuff in the bible actually is. I have no real evidence to believe that there is a higher power, though I freely admit that it is my hope that there is.

I would hope that such a being would be loving, kind and wise. I cannot imagine the sort that could condemn its own creations to eternal hell. Of course, I can't really imagine it period, which is just another reason why I'm unsure.

I freely admit that I haven't got a clue as to whether or not there's a God, any kind of higher power. I certainly don't believe in the traditional Christian God and my contempt for organized religion generally keeps me far from church services.

My family, when decorating for Christmas, often use Nativity scenes. The small towns that I grew up in - even the one I live in now, in Northern Maine, has a few of them. Often they are outside churches or homes, but not always. I have never heard anyone complain about them and can't see what reason someone would have to complain. People up here tend to believe in a live and let live sort of philosophy. I can't see anyone complaining if pagan decorations were also put up, or if someone felt like decorating for the flying spaghetti monster. Those who would I would think are the sort that would be perpetually offended and impossible to please.

I see things that offend me all the time. Provided they aren't illegal or in some way severely and deliberately offensive to a particular group of people, I generally find that I have no reason to complain.

I will take your question and turn it back - how does this persecute YOUR kind? Whatever your kind may be. Isn't that an insulting question?

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Response to democrattotheend (Original post)

Tue Nov 20, 2012, 12:21 AM

3. The whole display had become a joke over the years, sitting behind ugly chain-link fencing.

As the article notes, "To keep things fair and legal, the City held a lottery to parcel out slots. Atheists won 18 of 21 spaces. A Jewish group won another. The Nativity story that traditionally took up 14 displays was jammed into two."

And even though they lost fair and square on the lottery, the sore loser churches got pissed. It all became too much and the City threw in the towel, rightfully so, and decided to end the displays. Although it may have been "closely watched," this case was not a close call. The City can't be forced to put up a religious display.

I'm glad to see the whole mess go. The 21 "spaces" were tacky wooden shacks with the open front covered with chain-link fencing and chicken wire to protect the contents from vandals and thieves. Kind of reminded me of that scene in the Blues Brothers movie when they played in that country-western bar behind chicken wire to protect them from flying beer bottles (but not the beer in the bottles).

If those churches are so into Nativity displays, why don't they just display them on their own, property-tax-free lawns?

Even more stupefying, why is the SM Police Officers Assn. involved as a plaintiff?! The displays attracted vandals and were a blight on a breathtakingly beautiful view of Santa Monica beach from this park perched up on top of a seaside cliff.

Seems to me just relaxing in the park and enjoying some of God's best handiwork is a much better way to honor God than staring at a bunch of painted dolls behind a chain-link fence.

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Response to democrattotheend (Original post)

Tue Nov 20, 2012, 12:26 AM

5. YES!!!! The 60 years of horror has finally come to an END!!!!

Rejoice! Rejoice!

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Response to democrattotheend (Original post)

Tue Nov 20, 2012, 02:12 AM

9. The battle may be won, but the war is not yet over!

We'll win this War on Christmas, even if it takes us all month long!

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Response to democrattotheend (Original post)

Tue Nov 20, 2012, 02:43 AM

10. Replace it with a Freddie Cannon exhibit

Hay! It is in Palisades Park!

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Response to democrattotheend (Original post)

Tue Nov 20, 2012, 07:00 AM

11. Ah, yes. Petty dick moves will really win hearts and minds. nt

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