LOS ANGELES (AP) – A Los Angeles federal judge on Thursday dismissed a Christian group’s lawsuit to force suburban Santa Monica to reopen spaces in a city park to private displays, including Christmas Nativity scenes.
U.S. District Court Judge Audrey Collins issued the ruling after earlier this month denying an injunction sought by the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee.
Christmastime Nativity scenes had been erected in Palisades Park for decades. Last year, atheists overwhelmed the city’s auction process for display sites, winning 18 of 21 slots and triggering a bitter dispute.
The city then banned private, unattended displays at the park.
An attorney for the group says he plans to appeal the ruling.
Collins had 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 message alongside the Christmas diorama.
In her ruling Thursday, Collins said the coalition has other options.
“For instance, plaintiff could erect displays in some public parks around the city (excluding Palisades Park) as part of a one-day community events permit, or plaintiff could erect attended displays in all of the city’s public parks,” Collins wrote in her 25-page ruling. “Plaintiff raises several arguments to suggest that these alternatives are not adequate, but none is persuasive.”
The trouble in Santa Monica began three years ago, when atheist Damon Vix was granted a booth in Palisades Park alongside the story of Jesus Christ’s birth.
Vix hung a sign that quoted Thomas Jefferson: “Religions are all alike — founded on fables and mythologies.” The other side read “Happy Solstice.” He repeated the display the following year but then upped the stakes significantly.
Vix recruited 10 others last year to inundate the city with applications for displays and the atheists used half their spaces, displaying signs such as one that showed pictures of Poseidon, Jesus, Santa Claus and the devil.
Most of the signs were vandalized and in response the city ended a tradition that began in 1953 and earned Santa Monica one of its nicknames, the City of the Christmas Story.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- The 5 worst things you could do for your roof
- 6 coolest things brewing in Arizona
- The virus that keeps head and neck cancers on the rise
- State Fair ‘Kid Reporter’ has all the angles covered
- 4 important things to know about timeshare maintenance fees
- Signs of delayed car crash injuries
- The truth about sports concussions
- The Alzheimer's epidemic: Facts you need to know
- The season is here, keep your Fantasy Football team strong all season
- 8 TV shows you can't miss this fall
- Football is here: 6 tips to make this your best season ever
- Gameday recipes and beers to match
- 6 reasons the Cardinals are driven to win the Super Bowl
- The Pac-12 football season nears kickoff
- Tips to get ready for a pain-free golf season
- Protect your family with these 7 home security features
- How to train like an Olympic swimmer
- 2016 Olympics: A guide to must-see TV events
- The bride's guide to feeling your best on your wedding day
- Deciding when you need knee surgery
- Celebrating Fourth of July is much cooler in these AZ towns
- Top ten road trip bathrooms in America
- Six things causing a pain in your neck
- 5 things to make your summer move easier
- Three elements of a strong timeshare exit guarantee
- Stretches and exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome
- The best Major League ballparks have their own personality
- Comparing the best regular seasons: The '96 Bulls and '16 Warriors
- 3 Arizona road trips and the vehicles to get you there
- Colon cancer is preventable. Check these signs and symptoms to stay healthy.