(Photo: REUTERS/Danny Moloshok)
A lawyer representing a group of churches that appears to have lost their bid to continue a nearly 60-year-old tradition of hosting a Nativity scene at a park in the beach city of Santa Monica, Calif., says the battle to preserve Christmas displays in the national public square has been lost.
"When [Monday] (11/19/2012), United States District Court Judge Audrey B Collins delivered a 28-page ruling denying my client the right to continue a 59-year-old tradition of exhibiting Nativity scenes along Ocean Boulevard in the City of Santa Monica this Christmas season, another dagger plunged into the heart of America's twilight customs and traditions. The sneered-at 'war on Christmas' was effectively lost for good," wrote William J. Becker, Jr., of The Becker Law Firm, in an article.
A controversy over the display about the birth of Jesus at Palisades Park erupted last Christmas season when an atheist group "manipulated" the city's lottery system for spaces, according to the Santa Monica Nativity Scene Committee, resulting in only two booths for the Christian group that normally uses 14 booths for the various Nativity-related scenes.
Last Monday, Judge Audrey B. Collins denied a request from the committee to erect the large displays, primarily on the grounds that the city's administration was overburdened with the permit process for the displays, according to Becker. A temporary injunction to allow the displays to go up this Christmas season was not allowed.
Becker wrote in his article that the case has not been dismissed (at least not yet), but it appears that an upcoming hearing on Dec. 3 will be about a motion to dismiss the lawsuit against the city of Santa Monica.
"As lead counsel for the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee, a nonprofit made up of local churches and the police union, it is not my intention to surrender the cause," he states. "But the legal theories we presented to support the preservation of the Nativity tradition in Santa Monica and which the court rejected in their entirety are the identical legal theories advanced in opposition to the City's motion to dismiss … I lack the cheery optimism (or delusional hope) the trend will somehow magically reverse course, carrying us safely back to dock in the port of redemption. I fancy myself an able advocate, not a miracle worker."
Hunter Jameson, head of the Nativity scene committee, told The Christian Post on Monday that it is a shame that the atheist activist group swayed the city to eliminate the tradition.
"It's a very sad day when a small number of people with an axe to grind, people who do not like Christianity, and who do not like God, are able to prevail by manipulating rules to censor our message from the public place where it has been displayed for the enjoyment of millions of people for nearly 60 years," Jameson said.
"It's even sadder that a city government would allow itself to go along with this effort to try to snuff out a message that a small group of people did not agree with," Jameson added.
The group's lawyer summed up: "Traditions like the Nativity displays in Palisades Park Traditions like the Nativity displays in Palisades Park, religious tolerance and common sense can always look to tomorrow. But, I fear, in my naïve way, not before the gravitational pull of society's regressive 'progressive' movement has tired of battle."