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Some of the 14 scenes lining the 2700 block of Ocean Park Boulevard, which will officially be unveiled Sunday at 3 p.m. and remain in place through the first week of January.
Photo by Brenton Garen
Some of the 14 scenes lining the 2700 block of Ocean Park Boulevard, which will officially be unveiled Sunday at 3 p.m. and remain in place through the first week of January.

News, City Council, Holiday, Santa Monica, Religion

Santa Monica Nativity Scenes To Be Unveiled Sunday Along Ocean Park Boulevard

Posted Dec. 7, 2012, 12:24 am

Brenton Garen / Editor-in-Chief

Santa Monica’s controversial Nativity scenes, which had graced the lawn of Palisades Park for almost six decades before City Council banned them from the park this year, have found a new home on private property at 2700 Ocean Park Boulevard.

With an opening ceremony scheduled for this Sunday at 3 p.m., Nativity scenes organizers are inviting the community to visit its 14-lighted scenes with life-size figures depicting events surrounding Christ’s birth that will remain on display through the first week of January.

The City Council voted June 12 in favor of the ban to quell controversy that erupted after a small group of atheists used new rules and a City-mandated lottery to win most of the available display space last year in Palisades Park.

The lottery was employed in order to allocate display opportunities in an unbiased manner as the number of groups requesting use of Palisades Park under the City Hall exception far exceeded the space available.

City Hall’s initial decision sparked a controversy, particularly because the groups displaying Nativity scenes at Palisades Park now had stiff competition for space.

Due to the lottery system, most spaces were allocated to displays that opposed religion.

Specifically, 18 of the 21 spaces in Palisades Park were allocated to atheist groups. Only two slots were allocated to Christmas displays; a Hanukkah display was awarded the other slot.

Nativity scenes backers said the city’s ban on the Nativity scenes and other similar displays achieved the atheists’ expressed goal of ousting them from the park in violation of display sponsors’ constitutional rights of free speech and free exercise of religion, and sued the city in federal court.

U.S. District Judge Audrey B. Collins ruled Nov. 19 against the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee, which had two weeks earlier filed a request for a preliminary injunction to prevent Santa Monica from enforcing its ban against Nativity scenes along a stretch of Ocean Avenue. The Committee claimed the ban violated the group’s First Amendment rights under the Establishment Clause.

Collins denied the preliminary injunction, stating the city ordinance was constitutional and that City Hall was legally entitled to prevent erected structures in public spaces so long as the ban was equally applied to everyone irrespective of beliefs and it allowed for religious speech to take place in other public forums.

The preliminary injunction motion hoped to allow Nativity scenes to be displayed at Palisades Park as their federal lawsuit plays out in the United States District Court.

However, the lawsuit was dismissed Nov. 29.

Nativity Scenes Committee Chairman Hunter Jameson said that Nativity scenes organizers would appeal the dismissal to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court under counsel William J. Becker, Jr.

“We will continue to fight for free speech and the free exercise of religion as we continue to seek restoration of the Nativity Scenes to its historic home in Palisades Park,” Jameson said.

The new location between Clover Park and 28th Street will not have a traffic lane reserved for viewing and motorists are asked not to impede traffic when driving past the Nativity scenes.

Jameson said that visiting the display had become a cherished tradition for multiple generations of families.

“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 to residents and visitors,” he said.

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Dec. 7, 2012, 1:38:58 am

stewart said...

dump the SMRR majority council once and for all

Dec. 7, 2012, 3:24:08 am

Patti Phillips said...

Yeah, hooray! Having grown up in Santa Monica, I looked forward to the Nativity scenes every year. I am so tired of all the "political correctness" that continues to stomp on the values and beliefs of people of faith. It's a win for those who remember that Christmas is still about the birth of a child.

Dec. 7, 2012, 3:24:56 am

Jordon said...

You Jeebuz freaks were the ones that defaced a display in the first place. Always trying to force your idol down our throats. Have your silly little display if you will. I'll think about your god when I'm on the toilet.

Dec. 7, 2012, 3:51:13 am

Diana said...

I'm so happy that the Nativity displays have found a new home, despite the idiocy of the anti-Religion crowd.

Dec. 7, 2012, 3:59:18 am

Sharon said...

Jordon, you are a pathetic and unkind soul. We will say a prayer for you. Now go back to the toilet where you belong. Thank you to the private property owner for donating their space for the nativity scenes to be displayed!!

Dec. 7, 2012, 11:26:35 am

stewart said...

The city of Santa Monica does not own Plaisades Park to begin with. check your history. Get back to me.

Dec. 7, 2012, 6:21:08 am

Peter Kunstler said...

The nativity scenes depict a specific religious story and point of view. Placing these scenes on public property suggested that the City of Santa Monica favored this religious view, which took up more space than any other. The proponents of the scene are angry because the shoe went on the other foot. By arguing that giving the bulk of the spaces to atheists puts the City's stamp of approval on atheism, nativity scene activists simply prove that ANY religious (or anti-religious) scene offends the First Amendment. I rejoice when people erect signs or displays expressing their points of view on private property. I tremble when public property is used for the same purpose.

Dec. 7, 2012, 8:28:26 am

L. McCann said...

For some reason this is a fit! Just seems right. Maybe the nativity scenes including the Atheist nativity scene will also be revamped to look better, less tacky. But all in all it is all in fun!

Dec. 7, 2012, 9:22:57 am

Martin marteen said...

Jordon, and Künstler I have no interest in seing the scenes, nor do I have any interest in preventing others from enjoying them. It has not done this country any harm for four hundred years, in being religious, and I see no reason to stop it. If as Atheists, you two have a positive , constructive display that does not interfere with others, please let's hear it. As paramount Atheists, you may wish to peruse what either Hitler or Stalin did to celebrate the Holidays. I look forward to seeing your proposals.

Dec. 7, 2012, 11:04:02 am

mangeleno said...

While this is a viable solution to the immediate problem, I still believe that the City's cynical position should have been countered with an equally cynical solution. The Nativity scenes should have been erected on private property at whichever member Church has the longest frontage along Wilshire Blvd. Bringing a major commercial thoroughfare to a grinding halt during the premier retail season would have spoken louder than any lawsuit could ever hope to do.

Dec. 7, 2012, 4:21:02 am

Carol H said...

HOORAH for the 1st amendment and to Watt Industries for restoring the Nativity scenes which depict the TRUE meaning of Christmas. for those who do not believe they have an option, dont look at it! simple, BUT don't take away the rights of those who do Believe......

Dec. 8, 2012, 2:04:47 am

Jesus said said...

I for one plan to go old school this season and slaughter a lamb in my front yard.

Dec. 8, 2012, 2:16:34 am

A Real Atheist said...

As an atheist, I'm fine with Nativity scenes, it doesn't bother me a bit. In fact, I enjoy looking at them just as I enjoy putting up Christmas lights and a tree. I also like seeing Menorahs lighting up. I plan on a typical American Christmas with Santa Claus and gifts for friends and family. We'll watch Christmas Story 10 times in a row, get snookered on spiked eggnog and wear stupid sweaters with snowflakes on them. I don't need the religious aspect to enjoy the holidays spending time with family but that's my opinion. I won't force it on anyone else. So I'm glad they have a place for the Nativity scenes and I'll bring the kids by to see it. Being tolerant and loving your neighbor shouldn't only be a religious thing. It should be a human thing.

Dec. 7, 2012, 11:31:00 pm

dave said...

You people who had / have a problem with this display after 60 years are fools. You can't stamp out Christ by being bullies in the public square.

Dec. 9, 2012, 6:49:39 am

Sean said...

Public property belongs to the public. Please keep your religion to yourself and free up the space for everyone to enjoy. I have no problem with these displays on private property. You keep believing as we keep evolving but I don't come and shove my science charts in your face so please take your jesus bullshit and shove it down your own children's throat. I love the Christmas holidays, the Starbucks cups, the stupid songs and sweaters as much as I love Halloween but do all that on your own damn front lawn and leave everyone alone. You have enough churches in this town okay? I think we all know where to get your kooaid.

Dec. 9, 2012, 6:51:16 am

Santa Monica Resident said...

This tolerance for any religion to use public property as a display needs to end. I'm very happy with this outcome.

Dec. 9, 2012, 9:32:53 am

Joe N. said...

In a country that values religious freedom and cultural expression, I don't see how suppression of public displays really conveys that message. On the contrary, it makes us seem cold and unwelcoming of cultural views that differ from our own. The biggest supportive argument that I've heard for the removal of public displays is that it honors the constitutional mandate to keep church and state separate. everyone has their own opinion on this, but mine is that when people use that argument they blow the meaning of that statement wildly out of context. Separation of church and state guarantees that no religious group can entirely effect the way that we make our laws or run our government. To quote directly: "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church and State." I would say that that statement protects the acceptance of all religion/non religion. That said, if the true mission of those seeking to rid Santa Monica of religious holiday symbols is to save people from thinking that Santa Monica somehow has a Christian leaning, I say build holiday displays relevant to us all. Have all cultures and denominations represented. It would do much to benefit education, community tolerance, and open-mindedness.

Dec. 8, 2012, 2:49:48 pm

Joan Boylan said...

I am so happy to see this happen. I have enjoyed them every year since I came here in 1970. Last year was so disappointing. It has been our family tradition to go to Santa Monica to see the Christmas Story and then to dinner in Santa Monica. My children and now my grandson enjoy also.

Dec. 13, 2012, 8:10:54 am

Ben said...

the only victory here belongs to the people who are happy. Christmas will happen with each Christian home each year. Thank you to Ocean Park for hosting this year. if you're not celebrating a holiday this year, please make sure you find time to volunteer for those in need since your passion is so strong in protecting the public. may God bless you.

Dec. 18, 2012, 3:35:28 am

Roland said...

Did people set up nativity scenes BEFORE Jesus was born. Me thinks that answer is NO....since how can you make your savior someone you don't even know about...since he hasn't been born yet. I guess its straight to hell for these people.

Dec. 25, 2012, 2:44:38 am

John Zackharia said...

Did you know that the City Council allows not one but TWO Jewish Minorus on the Promanade? The Santa Monica City Council mayor and past mayors are jewish. I think they used the atheists to remove all the christian stuff but not the jewish stuff.

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