Today a federal judge in Santa Monica ruled against a church group's right to reopen a nativity scene display in a public park after they were forced to take it down by the city.
The ruling comes after a contentious battle between the church group and one prominent atheist in the area, Damon Vix. Just last year, Vix put up a banner with images of Santa Claus, Jesus, King Triton and the Devil that asked "what myths do you see?" right next to the church group's nativity display. The large nativity display, which depicts 14 religious scenes, and Vix's banner, were located in a public city park, not on the private grounds of the church.
The argument between the church group and the atheists last year resulted in a great deal of vandalism and upheaval in the community. This year, anticipating the same result, the city of Santa Monica barred both the church group and the secular groups from displaying anything at all.
In suing the city, the church had hoped to argue to the court that it should also have the right to display in the park as part of their first amendment rights. The judge, however, solved the problem by ruling that any kind of unmanned display in the park is illegal, religious or otherwise.
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'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, something like our savior had to hunt for a place to be born because the world was not interested," said Hunter Jameson, the head of the nonprofit Santa Monica Nativity Scene Committee in an interview with the Daily Mail.
The argument between the church and Vix goes back nearly three years, when he placed a banner next to a booth in Palisades Park belonging to the church that depicted Jesus' birth. The banner read: 'Religions are all alike-founded on fables and mythologies,' a quote from Thomas Jefferson. The other side read 'Happy Solstice.'
For Vix, it's just one small step in the right direction. 'If I had another goal, it would be to remove the `under God' phrase from the Pledge of Allegiance,' he told the Daily Mail. First Christmas. Next up: the Pledge of Allegiance.
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