A California attorney says a judge's decision against the
display of nativity scenes in a public park sets a negative
precedent for religious and free speech liberties.
U.S. District Court Judge Audrey Collins has
rejected a motion from the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes
Committee to allow private displays, including a nativity scene, to
be set up in a city park. The complaint was filed in October to protect the 14-booth nativity
scene that has been displayed every Christmas for roughly the past
60 years. But Collins ruled that the city was within its
constitutional right to close the park from all private
"The ruling takes us further
down the slippery slope diminishing the rights of Christians and of
most religious faiths, but especially Christians, to engage in
religious speech in this country," laments William J. Becker, Jr.,
lead counsel for the Nativity Scenes Committee. "This case sets a
precedent that allows dissenting voices to hack into a government
The city implemented a lottery system last year that ultimately
allowed atheist groups to put up signs and banners in Palisades
Park that attacked Christmas and Christianity. So in order to
comply with all groups, the city chose to completely remove all
"I think that it's just pretty obvious that if you have a
59-year tradition that … has been a pride of the community, has
been something the community values -- that suddenly has been
gamed, and on that basis, the city legislators make a decision to
just suppress all speech in the form of displays -- that's pretty
clearly an unconstitutional heckler's veto," Becker contends.
He may pursue an appeal of Judge Collins' decision.
Illinois voters will be the judge when it comes to whether one
particular member of the bench keeps his position.