Santa Monica Nativity group appeals dismissal of its case against ban
A coalition of churches and other groups has appealed the dismissal of its case seeking to overturn Santa Monica's ban on the display of Nativity scenes in a public park.
The Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee filed a notice of appeal in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles last week.
The Santa Monica City Council voted last year to prohibit the displays after a free-speech dispute between Christians and atheists in December 2011. The coalition asked a federal court to allow the displays to be erected last month, following a 59-year tradition, but U.S. District Court Judge Audrey B. Collins sided with the city's argument that the administrative burdens of sorting out the controversy justified the ban.
The group decided to display the Nativity scenes on private property.
"Imagine if the city decided to ban all public expression out of fear it would cause additional strain on its police services because a few groups wanted to stir trouble," said William J. Becker Jr., an attorney for the coalition. "The city's job is to protect the rights of those whose protected expression is targeted by unruly forces. We expect the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to get it."
-- Martha Groves
Photo: Vikki Hill of Santa Monica protests in December 2011 in front of an atheist's group display where Nativity scenes use to be at Pacific Palisades Park along Ocean Avenue. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times