(SANTA MONICA, Calif.) — A federal judge Monday knocked down an attempt by a group of Christians to force the city of Santa Monica, Calif., to host their Nativity displays during the month of December.
The Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee filed suit last month after the beachfront city pulled the plug on a 60-year tradition of holiday displays, which gave rise to the city’s moniker of “The City of the Christmas Story,” according to court documents. The city had been overwhelmed with applications by atheists to set up their own displays during December, so officials abolished the practice altogether.
On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Audrey Collins ruled against the Nativity Scenes Committee, according to The Los Angeles Times. Collins rejected its argument that the city was violating its members’ First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
The change came after an outspoken atheist set up his own display next to the nativity scene.
Atheist Damon Vix hung a sign three years ago reading “Religions are all alike – founded on fables and mythologies,” next to the Christmas nativity at a booth in Palisades Park, according to the suit. The other side read, “Happy Solstice.”
He then wrangled fellow atheists into applying for the booth spaces at Palisades Park, leaving only two spaces for the traditional Christian nativity scenes during December 2011, according to the document.
After the holidays passed, the Santa Monica city council decided to abandon the tradition altogether, a decision the Nativity Scenes Committee hoped to reverse with the federal court decision.
The group is made up of 13 area churches and the police officers’ union, according to the suit.
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