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Judge sides with city's ban on speech

Becky Yeh - California correspondent ( Monday, December 3, 2012

In dismissing a suit involving a 14-booth nativity scene, one attorney says a California judge has allowed a city to ban all forms of speech.

U.S. District Court Judge Audrey Collins has dismissed the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee's lawsuit that sought to re-implement a nativity display in a public park (see earlier story). Collins said the city of Santa Monica has the right to ban all displays in Palisades Parks after a lottery system the city enforced allowed atheist groups to post anti-Christmas and anti-Christianity signs and banners.

Snider, Kevin (PJI)Following that controversy, the city chose to completely remove all displays, including a nativity scene that stood for nearly 60 years.

"We're disappointed in the decision by the district court and are hoping that the rights of the citizens who brought this case will be vindicated in the Ninth Circuit," states Kevin Snider, chief counsel with the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI).

"It's essentially a heckler's veto, and there [are] no real alternative forms [of speech] in the park for this. This is a unique type of speech."

William Becker, Jr. of The Becker Law Firm, lead counsel for the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee, reports that the Committee will appeal the decision to the Ninth U.S. Court of Appeals. Becker calls the dismissal of this case a "badly reasoned and excessively flawed ruling."

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