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Unto Us A Christmas Controversy Is Born: Santa Monica Plans To Ban 59-Year-Old Christmas Tradition

This year, the tradition may be banned after the ahteist community has stated that the religious propaganda should not be allowed in a public park.

Santa Monica, CA – For the past 59 years, the city of Santa Monica has been known, among other things, as the City of the Christmas Story. For decades, churches in the community have set up various nativity scenes in the public Palisades Park. The scenes are visited by hundreds of locals and tourists each year as part of the town’s holiday tradition.

Not this year.

Due to protests from the town’s atheist community, the Christmas scenes have been banned as Santa Monica officials washed their hands of the dispute between the church and the secular community. The ban has prompted churches to sue over freedom of speech violations, stating that they have a legal right to set up their 14-scene diorama in the park. The churches’ attorney will ask a federal judge today to re-instate the depiction of Jesus’ birth. The city aims to reject the case.

“It’s a sad, sad commentary on the attitudes of the day that a nearly 60-year-old Christmas tradition is now having to hunt for a home,” said Hunter Jameson, head of the nonprofit Santa Monica Nativity Scene Committee that is suing. The Atheist community hope their efforts will encourage other towns to put an end to public religious Christmas displays.

The atheists who started the protest will not be present in court. He and fellow atheists are involved outside the court, an act that “highlights a tactical shift as atheists evolve into a vocal minority eager to get their non-beliefs into the public square as never before.”

Atheists are hoping that their actions will encourage other small towns across the country to shun religious practices centered on Christmas.

“In recent years, the tactic of many in the atheist community has been, if you can’t beat them, join them,” said Charles Haynes, a senior scholar at the First Amendment Center and director of the Newseum’s Religious Freedom Education Project in Washington. “If these church groups insist that these public spaces are going to be dominated by a Christian message, we’ll just get in the game — and that changes everything.”

Last year, atheists set up booths in the Santa Monica park right alongside the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus. One such display held a sign that showed pictures of Poseidon, Jesus, Santa Claus, and the devil. The sign read: “37 million Americans know myths when they see them. What myths do you see?”

A court hearing today in the US District Court in LA could decide the fate of the Christmas tradition for the upcoming season.

Nativity scenes in local parks are just one of the forms of Christmas celebration that take place all over the nation each holiday season.

Christmas in the US has become a mash-up of various cultural and religious traditions over the years. Homes are decorated with lights, a tradition that originated with Thomas Edison’s electricity stunt of the year (one year he electrocuted an elephant). Edison’s whole purpose was publicity, advertising his newly developed strung bulb light by draping them all over his workshop in the 1880s. Evergreen trees are cut down and dragged into homes, a custom that began with a pagan celebration of the winter solstice. The goal of the evergreen tree, decorated and put up in homes (originally hung upside down from the ceiling), was purposed to remind the sun gods of the fruit of their labor, invoking the sun to give up its winter nap and warm the earth once more. Every mall in the nation hosts a Santa display, with children lining up with their parents to sit on the jolly man’s lap and ask for a game console or Bratz doll.

Atheists rented booths alongside the Nativity dioramas to promote their own opinions about the religious holiday.

While it is understandable to be frustrated at the promoting of ideas which you believe to be false, there seems to be no one picketing at malls, shunning the jolly old man in the red suit. No one is insisting that those who have trees in their homes truly believe that their ornament-laden tree will lure the sun god from his winter nap. It seems that, should every religious (or non-religious) holiday practice be banned because someone, somewhere, disagrees, we won’t have anything left to celebrate.

Readers: What do you think? Should the city of Santa Monica ban the Christmas diorama tradition?

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2 Responses to “Unto Us A Christmas Controversy Is Born: Santa Monica Plans To Ban 59-Year-Old Christmas Tradition”

  1. Pacific Justice

    PJI Fights For Christmas Free Speech Rights (PJI.org).

    Los Angeles – The Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) filed a lawsuit against the City of Santa Monica after a nearly 60-year tradition was unconstitutionally terminated by city officials.

    Each Christmas season, for nearly 60 years, visitors of the Palisades Park in Santa Monica, California, were able to enjoy diverse displays—privately hosted—featuring different aspects of the Nativity scene. This annual tradition was bombarded in recent years with challenges from adamant atheists.
    The complaints led the City to opening up the display spaces to others interested in using them on a first-come first-serve lottery basis. In 2011 atheists collaborated together, and secured 18 of the 21 spaces. They left spaces empty, and filled others with anti-religious, secular statements.

    One of the atheists was quoted as saying, “the atheist groups had no real desire to set up displays, but wanted to counter the Nativity scenes in size and message.” In response to the increased competition for spaces, and the potential for greater controversy, the City Council of Santa Monica opted to do away with the annual tradition instead of welcoming free speech.

    The lawsuit, filed by Los Angeles area Becker Law Firm with PJI attorney Michael Peffer as co-counsel, aims to reinstate the long-held tradition, and restore the free-speech that has been banned.

    “Stopping this tradition is one of the worst things the City could have done. They have, in effect, given in to the atheists' demands,” said Brad Dacus, president of PJI. “Government officials throwing out traditional free speech opportunities due to fear of controversy is unwise, and unconstitutional, behavior,” Dacus noted.

    Pacific Justice Institute is a non-profit legal organization dedicated to defending religious, parental, and other constitutional rights.

    http://www.pacificjustice.org/1/post/2012/10/-pji-fights-for-christmas-free-speech-rights.html

  2. Archie Bushee

    This is not the way to spread reason. Leave holidays alone and instead ,educate our youth. In time, the holidays will change by themselves.