Secular speech protected; religious speech squelched

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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?

Photo: Scott Head AP)

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.”


Santa Monica Nativity Scenes


59 Responses to “Secular speech protected; religious speech squelched”

  1. 51



    What I haven’t heard is a sound, reasoned argument which points out the flaws in the following principle:
    The US government should provide no platform or resources to advance the message of any one religion; unless equal access to that platform/resources are granted to proponents of all religions.

    There is a flaw in your strawman principle in that it is only considering US Government property, yet by omission you leave out state and local government/public property over which most of these legal battles have been fought. We have not been discussing US government property. Rather disingenuous on your part don’t you think?

    Public property is public. Freedom of speech is the freedom to present your point of view. If you allow free speech on public property, then religious speech must also be allowed. Everyone who jumps on a soap box, or marches, protests, demonstrates is doing so to proselytize their beliefs. Religious speech is based similarly on a system of beliefs. Allowing everyone to speak except those who’s message is religious, is not equality, nor equal protection under the law. If they ban religious speech from public property, then they must in fairness ban all speech there, and the same should apply for government property. To deny religious people to demonstrate, while you allow gays, ethnic groups, the KKK, etc. to assemble on or use such places is patently un-American.

  2. 52




    That was a sound, reasoned argument.


    Seriously, what’s the problem here?

    Indeed, what is the problem here? It only became a problem amongst militant secularists within the last 60 years.

    By the President of the United States of America. a Proclamation.

    Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor–and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

    Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be–That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation–for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed–for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted–for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

    and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions–to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually–to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed–to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness onto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord–To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us–and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

    Given under my hand at the City of New-York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

    Go: Washington

    Atheists today would have a problem with George Washington’s Thanksgiving proclamation, methinks.

  3. 53



    Ditto; you are so correct. If CodePinko, or some anti-war/atheist/Socialist group is allowed to parade down public streets and stand on court house steps to voice whatever grievance they think they have, then by “equal” standards, religious groups should be allowed the same right. If a union is allowed to protest, which is no more than a form of proselytizing, then any religious group has the same right to proselytize.

    But that is not the goal of the left. Their goal is to intimidate and create discomfort in others, causing others to be silenced. It is simple bully tactics. The squeekiest wheel gets greased. Pure Alinsky.

  4. 54

    Liberal1 (Objectivity)

    @Wordsmith: Wordsmith says: 37

    Legend: Bold=Liberal1 (Objectivity)

    @Liberal1 (Objectivity):
    @Wordsmith: “The current trend of opposing abortion and establishing personhood legislation and the idea that a human being is established at conception, immediately come to mind—as being legislation the has religion at its base.”

    Isn’t this a prejudicial belief on the part of an atheist? To reject any legislation because what formulated it came from those with religious beliefs? Are only beliefs secular in origin acceptable? Can you imagine the religious making your same argument, but from the opposite side of the fence, saying your legislation is bad because what drives it is atheistic values?

    “That’s assuming I’m against the legislation just because it came from religious beliefs. I think we can agree that most moral legislation originated with religious beliefs, in the form of religious laws. I’m only against in so much as they interfere with a person’s rights, in so far as that interference is based of supernatural or superstitious beliefs.”

    I don’t know how much opposition to abortion and legislation is driven by religious beliefs. However, even if this is the case, of what difference is it whether one’s opinions are formulated by religious beliefs or non-religious beliefs?

    “You don’t know how much religion drives the abortion issue? You have to be kidding me? Just listen to conservative politicians answer that question: It’s god’s will that the pregnancy occurred, and it’s against god’s will for man to interfere with the process through abortion. Most of the political players of the anti-abortionist issue are on board for religious reasons.”
    “Now I would say that many religious people choose to remain silent of this issue—-and I applaud them for not making their religious beliefs front and center. Although there is some diversity in religious beliefs in regard to abortion, (
    those who speak the loudest about pro-life, and those politicians who take the most anti-abortion activity, are believers in Fundamentalist Christian tenets. (”

    If a person does good in the world, does it matter if his good deeds were induced by religious values or secular values? Whether he does evil in the name of God or finds justification through secular beliefs, does it matter in the end?

    “Most of these examples [previously listed] are State Statutes, but, if allowed the succeed, they run the risk of spreading to the Federal Government—for example anti- Roe vs Wade [and plunging women back into the 50′s, coat-hanger abortions]. “

    Roe v. Wade was badly flawed legislation. Pro-abortionist and law professor John Hart Ely admits as much.

    “From what I can tell, John Ely simply has an opinion of the constitutionality of Roe v. Wade. Lot of people have contrary opinions. If you can send me some inferential logic showing that some statements follow consequentially from the wording of the Constitution, I’ll be glad to entertain it.”

    And it is hyperbole to claim overturning Roe v. Wade would throw us back to the 50s with coat-hanger abortions. Even before R v. W, 90% of abortions were done in doctors’ offices, not back alleys. According to the U.S. Department of Vital Statistics, there have been zero documented cases of coat-hanger abortions; and in 1972 before R v. W, only 39 women died from illegal abortions.

    “There are statistics that show contrary results cited in that study, which was probably done by a conservative think tank—not that that lends reason to disregard the argument, for they are only trying to justify their position, which we are all trying to do; but the study over-look some principle information. For example, the CDC, for the same period, notes some different statistics. (
    But it’s careful to note the these statistics included only those ‘reported to the CDC’—which is important because no telling how many women wouldn’t, for various reasons, report taking such actions. Here’s an example:
    Plus, in 1972, abortion was legal in some states, like California and New York (ibid.), making it safer. Like your citation states, the use of penicillin had become more prevalent since WWII, but infections aren’t the only hazards of abortion, e.g., hemorrhaging.”

    Besides, even though either statistics are low, why should even one living woman with dreams and aspirations die because she was forced to participate in an illegal abortion—because of some law which outlaws the abortion of some non-sentient protoplasm? Or, how many children are killed, or abused, or malnourished that might possibly have been better off aborted. (”

    @Liberal1 (Objectivity):
    “Most all movements of freedom in this country have been opposed by Fundamentalist Christians—women’s sufferage, inter-racial marriage, abortion rights, the right for blacks to serve in the regular military, gay rights, etc.”

    One movement that I don’t think you can make the claim for: The first real anti-slavery movement was started thanks to Christian evangelists and how they interpreted their religious beliefs.

    “Yes—sometimes villains do good works. And how did these Quakers and Evangelists describe the slavery—as ‘un-Christian’. (
    I’m not sure what that says for the majority of religious people who were not opposed to slavery. And look at how long it took before slaves gained their freedom—and who were the principle opponents of this freedom: Religious people. And, needless to say, abolitionism wasn’t an American idea—but began with those awful progenitors of European socialism.”

    “It’s not surprising the in a country that is 75% theistic, that some good results are do happen—but not so much because of religious thinking, but in spite of it. And it is even less surprising that good things happened through the actions of religious folk, when the country was 99.9% religious—after all, if any good was to be done, then it was probably going to be done by the religious. But, at the same time, some very ugly things can also occur. We maintain that a secular humanistic approach is a better alternative. ”

  5. 56


    @Liberal1 (Objectivity):

    I find it amazing that you make a claim in favor of abortion based on the lack of responsibility on the part of the individual, because that is exactly what you are doing when you say “why should even one living woman with dreams and aspirations die because she she was forced to participate in an illegal abortion?”

    Well, to begin with, her “dreams and aspirations” did not change in the few minutes that it took her to concieve an unwanted child. She didn’t wake up the morning after deciding that she had dreams and aspirations. #2, no one is ever forced to participate in an abortion. It is, like the decision was to place her body in a position where there was a possibility of conception, also a personal choice.

    There is such a thing as the consequences of our actions. Drive drunk and the possibility of being injured/killed in an auto accident increases. Drink to excess, you’re going to have a hangover. Spend more than you earn, and more than you can pay for, and you will wind up broke with the chances of getting out of a financial fix even harder. And if you are a woman, and have irresponsible, unprotected sex, there is not just a strong possibility you will wind up pregnant, but a strong possibility you will wind up with a STD, for which there is no medical solution.

    Why must the ripping apart of a human being, still secure in its mother’s womb, be the answer? Why do we not expect personal responsibility on the part of people who engage in risky behavior?

    You also said: “How many children are killed, or abused, or malnourished that might possibly have been better off aborted?”

    Well, Lib1, abortion has done absolutely not one thing to decrease the percentage of children who are abused, killed or malnourished due to poverty. If abortion was the answer, the poverty rates among children should have gone down considerably, but they haven’t. But what abortion has done was the very thing that Margaret Sanger promoted, the reduction in the number of children of color being born. So as the African-American represented 20% of our population in the mid 1800’s, they now represent approximately 9%, a fact not lost on some black activists. In my view, there are none so racist as those who support the high rate of abortion in black women.

  6. 58

    Nathan Blue

    @Liberal1 (Objectivity): Ah yes, Ad Hominem: the rock people who principally use ad hominem attacks as proof (Birch, Ultra-Conservative, Far-right) always hide behind when they realized they couldn’t debate a point to save their life. It’s also known as “throwing in the towel.”

    As I said before, I accept your submission.