Judge: Santa Monica Can Bar Nativity Display in Park

Controversy began last year after a lottery system was used to allot display space

By Patrick Healy and Jonathan Lloyd
|  Monday, Nov 19, 2012  |  Updated 10:20 PM PDT
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Santa Monica will not be showcasing any seasonal decorations, including nativity scenes, for Christmas this year. The Nativity Scene Committee blamed the Anti-Religion Activists for City Hall's decision to deny the traditional displays. Patrick Healy reports from Santa Monica for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Nov. 19, 2012.

Patrick Healy

Santa Monica will not be showcasing any seasonal decorations, including nativity scenes, for Christmas this year. The Nativity Scene Committee blamed the Anti-Religion Activists for City Hall's decision to deny the traditional displays. Patrick Healy reports from Santa Monica for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Nov. 19, 2012.

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"Erosion of First Amendment Liberty"

William Becker, an attorney for the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes committee, reacted Monday to a judge's ruling that the city can bar unattended, private displays, including Nativity Scenes, from a park. Patrick Healy reports for the NBC4 News at noon on Monday, Nov. 19, 2012.
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A judge on Monday denied a group's bid for an injunction to force Santa Monica to reopen spaces in a city park to private displays that include Christmas Nativity scenes.

The earlier tentative ruling was formalized Monday by U.S. District Court Judge Audrey Collins. The ruling will be appealed, according to an attorney for the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes committee.

"This amounts to an erosion of First Amendment liberty for religious speech in this country," said William Becker, an attorney for the Nativity Scene committee. "It's just one more step in the slippery slope."

The controversy began after there were more requests for display spaces than allotted last year in Palisades Park. The city conducted a lottery to determine which groups could have displays.

The Nativity scene, which used to span across multiple display areas, was limited to just two spaces. Atheists won the majority of the spaces available last year.

"It simply bans the installation of private, unattended displays in one particular park," said Barry Rosenbaum, Santa Monica deputy district attorney.

What do you think of the ruling? Let us know on the NBCLA Facebook page.

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