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Church group plans to appeal Santa Monica Nativity scene ban

November 30, 2012 |  5:55 am

More photos: Battle over Christmas displays

The Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee said it will appeal a ruling dismissing a lawsuit that challenged Santa Monica's ban on Nativity and other seasonal displays in public squares. 

As expected, U.S. District Judge Audrey B. Collins on Thursday dismissed the lawsuit filed by the church coalition over the Santa Monica City Council's ban, which prohibits private, unattended displays in city parks. 

"This is a victory for atheists, anti-Christians and people who don't believe the 1st Amendment belongs as much to religious speakers as it does to secular and anti-religious speakers," William J. Becker Jr., an attorney for the committee, said in a statement. "The Grinch hasn't stolen Christmas. He has stolen our liberty."

PHOTOS: Battle over Christmas displays

Becker vowed that the committee would appeal the ruling. 

Nativity scenes in bluff-top Palisades Park had been a tradition since 1953.

A few years ago, that tradition offended Damon Vix, an atheist, who applied to put up a booth next to the Nativity scenes Last year, he encouraged other atheists to flood the city with applications. To keep things fair and legal, the city held a lottery to parcel out slots. Atheists won 18 of 21 spaces. A Jewish group won another. The Nativity story that traditionally took up 14 displays was jammed into two.

Controversy erupted, and as a result, the city decided the lottery would become increasingly costly. Last June, the City Council voted in the ban.

Becker said the committee planned this year to mount its displays on private property in an industrial park along Ocean Park Boulevard.

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-- Martha Groves

Photo: A Nativity scene in Santa Monica last year. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

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