Fight for Santa Monica nativity scenes ongoing

Friday, October 12, 2012
Becky Yeh - California correspondent (

A California attorney says one city isn't willing to come up with a "creative" way to satisfy constitutional requirements and avoid banning free speech completely.

Attorneys have filed a complaint in the United States District Court, requesting that the city of Santa Monica revert a policy that permanently bans displays in the park (see earlier story).

Every Christmas for the past 60 years, the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee displayed a 14-booth nativity scene in Palisades Park. But last year a lottery system was implemented, allowing atheist groups to put up signs and banners that attacked Christmas and Christianity. They claimed 18 of the 21 spaces and only used three of them, one of which featured pictures of King Neptune, Jesus Christ, Santa Claus and Satan and read, "37 million Americans know MYTHS when they see them. What myths do you see?"

Becker, William J.So in order to comply with all groups, the city has chosen to completely remove the displays. But William J. Becker, Jr., a First Amendment attorney and lead counsel for the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee, thinks there is a better solution.

"The city decided that it didn't want to have to come up with some kind of plan that would be content neutral and therefore satisfy constitutional requirements," he laments.

"By giving a permit to the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee, they would be favoring the committee over people with different viewpoints."

But Becker contends there is a simpler way for the city to deal with the issue:

"Open the forum to winter displays or winter holiday displays celebrating the winter seasonal holidays," he suggests. "That would include Christmas as well as Hanukkah, and I suppose Winter Solstice, if that's going to be regarded as a winter holiday."

The Becker Law Firm is assisted by the Pacific Justice Institute and expects a favorable response from the court.

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