For over 50 years the Nativity scene in Santa Monica's Palisades Park has been a main stay for eager holiday-goers anxious to see the life-sized Nativity display.
However, despite the decades old tradition, this year only a few spaces will be available for the Nativity due to a new lottery system that randomly picks those who want to use the space for Christmas. The lottery was reportedly implemented due to an unusually high volume of requests.
For the first time in the history of Christmas at Palisades Park there were 13 individuals that entered the race for the 21 spaces available rather than the usual three. The unusually high demand for spots, especially by atheists, has sparked Santa Monica’s City Hall to implement a random lottery system to determine who would have access to the spots.
That process left the Santa Monica Nativity Committee with only two spaces on which they can put up only three of the usual 14 scenes.
The lottery system that was used gave atheists a majority of the available spaces.
Commentators have said that atheists are set on using the Nativity spot to instigate a fight against Christmas.
Damon Vix, an atheist, told the Santa Monica Daily Press that he had a display last year which included a quote attributed to Thomas Jefferson: "Religions are all alike -- founded on fables and mythologies."
He has reportedly said he had been encouraging other atheists to take up the cause against Christmas this year.
By simply taking spaces with the sole purpose of stopping Christians celebrating Christmas, some have accused the atheists of infringing on other’s freedoms and First Amendment rights.
“By trying to push the Nativity scene out of the park and silence us, these people are infringing on our freedom and 1st Amendment rights," Hunter Jameson, a Nativity organizer, has said in a statement.
Save Our Nativity Scene or S.O.N.S. is an organization created to support the Nativity scene. It is comprised of a group of 13 local churches and the Santa Monica Police Officers Association, who have come together in support of the Nativity. The members offer donations as well as their time setting up the scenes and also to interact with the local community.
Mark Freeman, office manager for Pilgrim Lutheran Church, one of the churches of S.O.N.S., told The Christian Post, “I hope and pray that it can go back to the way it was.”
He also stated that there are already petitions available where individuals can express their support.
Marsha Moutrie, City Attorney for Santa Monica was unavailable for comment but did release a statement via email.
"The Supreme Court and federal appellate courts have designated public parks and public streets as the classic public forums in which individuals have maximum First Amendment protection," Moutrie added the city could not choose which displays are put up based on content.