Santa Monica News
Nativity Scenes Back In Santa Monica
By Ivetta Babadjanian
Dec 5, 2012 - 3:43:59 PM

SANTA MONICA—Santa Monica's controversial Nativity scenes have relocated and will provide 14 scenes of life-size figures depicting the birth of Jesus Christ starting Sunday, December 9. Additionally, a living Nativity will be performed at Palisades Park as the city's ban on displays is strictly directed towards those that are unattended.
Nativity scene. Photo courtesy of Santa Monica Nativity Scenes website.

The living Nativity performance will take place on Saturday, December 8 at Watt Companies near the corner of 28th Street and Ocean Park Boulevard. According to the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee, the scenes are scheduled to remain on display until early January.

"We are deeply grateful for the use of this new site to allow all of Santa Monica's distinctive Christmas story to continue spreading the message of joy, hope and peace found in the Christ child's birth," Nativity Scenes Committee Chairman Hunter Jameson said in a statement.

News of the arrangement came less than a week after a judge gave the final call that Santa Monica has the right to ban seasonal displays in public spaces. The Nativity scenes were an annual tradition in Palisades Park for almost six decades, however, atheists and Christian groups have been fighting over the space.

It began last year when there were more requests for displays then space, therefore, the city decided to issue a lottery to determine which groups would receive the slots. Atheists won the majority of the spaces available and put up displays that referred to Christianity as a myth. The Nativity scenes were limited to two spaces. 

The Santa Monica City Council voted to ban all private and unattended displays in the park in order to avoid costly legal disputes. Those who wanted the scenes filed suit in the U.S. District Court gaining national attention.

The city argued in a legal motion that Santa Monica is “a coastal, visitor-serving community with very crowded public spaces, including its parks.” The motion goes on to argue that the council “appropriately exercised its legislative discretion to balance use of public spaces and ensure shared usage.”

In November, Judge Audrey B. Collins of the U.S District Court in Los Angeles went against the Christian group's request to have the displays at the park. Attorney for the Nativity Scene Committee, William J. Becker Jr., stated the group plans to appeal the decision and the use of displays on private property is not a solution for the problem at hand.

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