Santa Monica Permanently Bans 60-year-old Christmas Nativity Scene Tradition
SANTA MONICA NATIVITY SCENES – NEWS RELEASE
June 13, 2012 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT WILLIAM J. BECKER., JR. – THE BECKER LAW FIRM, (310) 913-8581
SANTA MONICA PERMANENTLY BANS 60-YEAR-OLD CHRISTMAS NATIVITY SCENE TRADITION
LOS ANGELES — The Santa Monica City Council Tuesday night ended a nearly 60-year-old Christmas tradition of allowing Nativity displays in Palisades Park overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Responding to a clamor of opposition from atheists concerning the religious displays, the council voted unanimously 5-0 (with two members absent) to ban all displays from the park.
“The city has abdicated its duty to protect the First Amendment’s guarantees of free speech and the free exercise of religion within a traditional public forum–a city park,” said William J. Becker Jr., a First Amendment attorney and lead counsel for the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee, a group that has been seeking to preserve the Nativity Scenes tradition. “The city council members surrendered to the angry mob and, in the process, sent the world a message that religious freedom is not worth protecting in Santa Monica.”
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.
Last week, attorneys for the Nativity Scenes group sent a letter to the city council urging it to delay action on the proposed ban. In spite of that letter and throngs of local residents who appeared in support of the holiday tradition, City Attorney Marsha Moutrie stepped up her support for the ban on unattended displays.
“The city lacked the will to come up with a creative solution to the problem of accommodating the anti-religion agitators and caved in to their demands to remove a universally cherished symbol of the Christmas season from its traditional place in Palisades Park,” Becker said. “This act represents an erosion rather than an expansion of First Amendment vitality in America.”
The Nativity Scenes Committee is studying its options but has not yet determined whether it will file a lawsuit. Becker said the committee will make a decision sometime soon.
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