Attorneys For Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Group To Urge City Council To Preserve Christmas Nativity Scene Tradition

SANTA MONICA NATIVITY SCENES – MEDIA ADVISORY

June 11, 2012 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT WILLIAM J. BECKER., JR. – THE BECKER LAW FIRM,  (310) 913-8581

ATTORNEYS FOR SANTA MONICA NATIVITY SCENES GROUP TO URGE CITY COUNCIL TO PRESERVE CHRISTMAS NATIVITY SCENE TRADITION

 

WHO:  William J. Becker, Jr. (The Becker Law Firm)
WHAT:  Santa Monica City Council meeting
WHEN:  Tuesday, June 12, 2012, beginning at 6:30 p.m. PDT
WHERE:  Santa Monica City Hall, 1685 Main St., Santa Monica, Calif.

LOS ANGELES — Attorneys for organizers of the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes will ask the city council on Tuesday to reject a staff proposal banning the nearly 60-year-old Christmas tradition and all other displays from Palisades Park. The council will hear public comments and act on the matter at a meeting scheduled for Tuesday.

Last year, the city instituted a controversial lottery system. That system led to disputes over the fairness of the new rules when lottery-winning atheist groups displayed signs and banners attacking Christian beliefs and left a full block within the park empty.

On Wednesday, attorneys for the Nativity Scenes group sent a letter to the city council urging it to delay action on the proposal.

“We strongly believe that banning all unattended displays in the park–and thereby ending a tradition of allowing private groups to display the Nativity scene–is unwarranted. The committee will be carefully reviewing how this change impacts their constitutionally protected rights,” said William J. Becker Jr., a First Amendment attorney and lead counsel for the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee.

“It is not the government’s function to avoid controversy at the cost of fundamental rights. Indeed, the Supreme Court has firmly rejected this rationale for interfering with speech,” Becker wrote in the letter.

Becker explained that citizens’ free speech, including religious speech like Nativity scenes, has special protection in public parks under the Constitution, and the city cannot issue a flat ban.

The Nativity Scenes group has been fighting the city’s attempts to change its policy of allowing the annual Christmas displays in Palisades Park. The hiring of legal counsel represents a new direction for the group.

 

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