Santa Monica Nativity Booth
Christmas Scene Displays move onto Private Property
SANTA MONICA, Calif., Dec 3, 2012 - The City of Santa Monica, California has banned all Christmas Nativity scenes and "unattended displays" in Palisades Park after nearly 60 years. However, there are no prohibitions on live Nativity displays. A live Nativity display is planned for Palisades Park on Saturday, Dec 8th at 1 p.m.
On Sunday, Dec 9th, Nativity scene displays next to Clover Park in Santa Monica are scheduled to open. The static Nativity display location has been moved from Palisades Park to private property on the 2700 block of Ocean Park Blvd. between Clover Park & 28th St. Displays will be up through January 5th, 2013.
Hunter Jameson, Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee Chairman said " We're 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."
Local churches and the Police Dept. Union were unsuccessful in November, 2012 when U.S. District Court Judge Audrey Collins ruled against a Santa Monica Nativity Scene Committee injunction to allow displays with positive messages. Collins rejected the argument that the City of Santa Monica was violating First & Fourteenth Amendment rights by prohibiting Nativity displays on city property.
Reverend Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition stated "It's troubling that Santa Monica banned everything, not just the nativity displays. While the ban itself was not discriminatory, primary focus should be to protect our most fundamental rights, not restrict them."
In 2009, Atheist Damon Vix secured a booth space next to a nativity scene, erecting a sign decrying religion as mythology and fables. Last year, activist atheists overwhelmed the City of Santa Monica with applications for display spaces selected by a lottery. Many booths remained vacant. Only two spaces were granted to local churches leading the City to abolish the practice altogether.
"The Nativity Project" encourages display of Nativity Scenes in public places across America. The campaign, led by the Faith & Action organization and Christian Defense Coalition in Washington D.C. is dedicated to ensuring that Nativity scenes continue to be displayed in Palisades Park. Live Nativity displays are scheduled for the US Capitol, The Supreme Court Building and New York City in the next two weeks.
"It's our hope that private individuals and faith community of Santa Monica continues on with the tradition" continued Rev. Mahoney. "A group causing turmoil has resulted in a government entity banning a long-standing tradition for First Amendment advocates."
Palisades Park is but one example of results of attacks on theology and religious symbols that are gaining traction and occurring with more frequency. Nativity scenes in Waco, Texas have been criticized. Buhler, Kansas forced to remove a cross from their city seal. The State Christmas tree in Providence, Rhode Island is now a "holiday tree". Little Rock, Arkansas parents protested against a school trip to a local church to see a stage production of "A Charlie Brown Christmas."
Since 2002, the New York City public school system has banned the display of Nativity scenes but has allowed the display of religious symbols such as Christmas trees, Hanukkah menorahs, and the Muslim star and crescent. The ruling was upheld in 2006.
Atheists and ALCU groups argue that government-funded displays of Christmas imagery and traditions violate the US Constitution, which prohibits the establishment by Congress of a national religion.
No one is forcing members of these groups to adhere to specific religious beliefs yet battles rage over whether religious displays should be placed within public parks, schools courthouses, and other government buildings. Separation of church and state is an ideal. Etched into the currency that runs our states are the words "In God we Trust."
Some feel having Christmas as a holiday violates this separation but Christmas Day is a federal holiday established by an Act of Congress. What is it about Christmas that has activists up in arms? Is it the religious freedom or expressions of theology? Is it intolerance towards others or the First Amendment? This deep-seeded need for self-attention, divisiveness and constitutional reinterpretation has drowned out the message of Christmas "Peace on earth, goodwill to man"
Christmas was not widely practiced in America until well after the American Revolution. Pilgrims were a strict sect. Celebrations were even outlawed in Boston and making merry resulted in a fine. Northerners felt festive yuletides were not in line with their puritanical beliefs.
In the South, Christmas was a highlight of the social season. The first three states to make Christmas a legal holiday were Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas in 1838. Traditions spread across the country. Christmas became an official federal holiday since enacted by President Grant in 1870.
Children's books circulated with stories of trimmed trees and gifts delivered by Santa. Sunday schools encouraged celebration. Magazines detailed decorating trees, caroling, cooking and baking. Shopping boosted economic growth. Christmas traditions are part of our heritage for believers and non-believers alike. A holiday only 140 years old but defining American history as much as Thanksgiving, July 4th and New Years Day.
Is Christmas today as recognizable as the Norman Rockwell images of sixty years ago? Hardly. A gigantic two month non-stop media, advertising and mass marketing blitz from Halloween to New Year has obscured the meaning and peaceful message of joy.
Traditions from our past have created a blend of many customs and cultures, whether Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Eid. Preserving these traditions and tolerance of diverse religions, peaceful theologies and their symbols make up the unique fabric of our United States.