U.S. judge dismisses suit against Santa Monica nativity ban
As expected, U.S. District Judge Audrey B. Collins on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit filed by a church coalition seeking to challenge Santa Monica's ban on nativity and other seasonal displays in public spaces.
The Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee had filed the suit in October after the Santa Monica City Council voted to prohibit private, unattended displays in city parks. Earlier this month, the court denied the committee's request to allow the exhibition of nativity scenes in Palisades Park this year as the lawsuit progressed.
"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 Thursday. "The Grinch hasn't stolen Christmas. He has stolen our liberty."
Becker said the committee would appeal the ruling.
Nativity scenes in the bluff-top park had been a tradition since 1953. Last year, however, display requests outnumbered the spaces, so the city held a lottery to parcel out slots. Atheists won 18 of 21 spots.
Becker said the committee planned this year to mount its displays on private property in an industrial park along Ocean Park Boulevard.
Photo: A Nativity scene in Santa Monica last year. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times