LOS ANGELES — There's no room for the baby Jesus, the manger or the wise men this Christmas in a Santa Monica park following a judge's ruling Monday against churches that tried to keep a 60-year Nativity tradition alive after atheists stole the show with anti-God messages.
U.S. District Judge Audrey B. Collins rejected a motion from the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee to allow the religious display this season while their lawsuit plays out against the city.
Collins said the city was within its constitutional right to eliminate the exemption that had allowed the Nativity at the oceanfront Palisades Park because the change affected all comers – from Christians to Jews to atheists – and provided other avenues for public religious speech.
The coalition of churches that had put on the life-sized, 14-booth Nativity display for decades argued the city banned it rather than referee a religious dispute that began three years ago when atheists first set up their anti-God message alongside the Christmas diorama.
The judge, however, said Santa Monica proved that it banned the displays not to squash religious speech but because they were becoming a drain on city resources, destroying the turf and obstructing ocean views. Churches can set up unattended displays at 12 other parks in the city with a permit and can leaflet, carol and otherwise present the Christmas story in Palisades Park when it is open, she said.
“I think all of the evidence that is admissible about the aesthetic impacts and administrative burden shows that this was a very reasonable alternative for the city to go this way – and it had nothing to do with content,” she said during a hearing in federal court in Los Angeles.
I'm here to make the emotional appeal. Not a legal one.
This whole Grinch-stench began by a non-resident of the area, Damon Vix, in 2009. Then in 2011:
The 14 scenes depicting Jesus Christ’s birth have long been a popular attraction among area residents and tourists to the southern California city.
This year, however, atheists have taken over most of the two-block stretch, nearly shutting out and angering a group of churches who contend the atheists have organized against the Christians and gamed a city lottery process allocating the holiday exhibit space.
In response, a leader of the atheist group says he’s just looking for evenhanded treatment to present his beliefs in a public space — and goes so far as to say that the city shouldn’t even be allowing any religious or even atheist expression in the park.
That’s why he and his group have put nothing on half of the park exhibit spaces that they’ve secured from the city this year.
The atheists are declaring the politically left-leaning seaside town of Santa Monica as their latest battleground in a national movement to assert their rights.
“I’m part of a growing movement in America of atheists standing up for their rights. It’s a very exciting time for us that we’re having more of an impact in our society,” said Damon Vix, the organizer of the atheist group.
In 2011, Vix recruited 10 others to inundate the city with applications for tongue-in-cheek displays such as an homage to the “Pastafarian religion,” which would include an artistic representation of the great Flying Spaghetti Monster.
The secular coalition won 18 of 21 spaces. Two others went to the traditional Christmas displays and one to a Hanukkah display.
The atheists used half their spaces, displaying signs such as one that showed pictures of Poseidon, Jesus, Santa Claus and the devil and said: “37 million Americans know myths when they see them. What myths do you see?”
Most of the signs were vandalized and in the en
suing uproar, the city effectively ended a tradition that began in 1953 and earned Santa Monica one of its nicknames, the City of the Christmas Story.
What's next? The changing of the name “Santa Monica” to something more palatable to secularists?
The purpose of the atheist displays is to mock religion; not to celebrate their own non-beliefs. It's crapping on a religion during a time when that religion is celebrating a tradition of honoring the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ.
It'd be like atheists having a national day devoted to their….um…nonbelief; and instead of those who are religious simply respecting or not participating, wish to crash the party and be recognized; to narcissistically express themselves on someone else's birthday.
All this does is impoverishes our American culture of tradition and heritage.
The intolerance of secular militant extremists for any public displays of religious expression and the reworking of our nation's history, which from its inception has mixed government with religious art, is just sad.
How does religious expression and religious celebration by others harm me, personally? How does a Nativity scene harm me whether it's on public or private land?
I think the Christmas tradition enriches America, in all its religious AND secular expressions. It is history.
Growing up a non-Christian, I still embraced the beauty and joys of the Christmas Season. It's my favorite time of the year. I might not have been raised to believe in Jesus Christ; but it didn't harm or damage me to be exposed to Christianity and to participate in such things as Christmas card and gift exchanges; and Santa Claus…
Whatever happened to being respectful of the beliefs of others, anyway?
You don't have to be Christian to be a part of the celebratory nature of Christmas.
My dad grew up Catholic but is a staunch atheist. My mom is Buddhist. Yet every Christmas my life was enriched because we celebrated the season of joy, peace, and goodwill toward all men. We gave out and received Christmas (not holiday) cards; we exchanged Christmas (not holiday) presents. In school I sang Christmas (not winter) carols and was not told by my atheist dad that I should be offended. I watched Christmas specials- some of my favorites having strong religious themes in them like the Little Drummer Boy claymation or a Charlie Brown Christmas where Linus cites from the Bible.
I feel as though my life was enriched, not impoverished by these experiences. And I never felt excluded or unwelcomed as a non-Christian; nor did I feel threatened or coerced to convert.
Christmas is still a national holiday. It is interwoven into the very fabric of American heritage and tradition. How do you extract the religion out of it without damaging the entire tapestry of American culture?
As SouthernRoots put it a year ago:
Athiests are free to practice their “non-religion”, but they should do it in the privacy of their own homes. It would also be nice if they would stop forcing their beliefs down everyone’s throats
Vix, who doesn't even reside in Santa Monica, and those like him have garlic in their souls and are merely being a Grinch about this, not knowing just how much damage they are doing to American society by eradicating decades of tradition. And there are three words that best describe them: “Stink, stank, stunk.”