December 1, 2021 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Federal Court Rebuffs Request From Santa Monica Nativity Scene Coalition:

The holiday season is just around the corner, but there may be a little less cheer amongst a group hoping to bring Nativity Scenes back to Santa Monica. A federal judge rejected a motion Monday, Nov. 19 by a group seeking to prevent City Hall from enforcing its ban on erected structures at Palisades Park.

U.S. District Judge Audrey B. Collins ruled Monday morning 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.

Representing the Committee were attorneys William J. Becker, Jr., and Michael John Peffer, who filed the preliminary injunction motion in hopes to allow Nativity scenes to be displayed at Palisades Park as their federal lawsuit plays out in the United States District Court.

Becker and Peffer stated in the motion their client has displayed Nativity Scenes in Santa Monica for 59 years, the last eight of which were pursuant to Santa Monica’s “content-neutral Winter Display Policy.”

The attorneys stated City Hall effectively squelched constitutionally protected religious speech and its actions would “unlawful actions seek to erase history under the disingenuous pretense that this year administrative resources will be compromised due to ‘increased impacts on the park and on staff resources.’”

According to reports, Collins disagreed with that argument at Monday morning’s hearing, saying City Hall did not enact its policy based upon any specific content.

In light of Monday’s ruling, the Committee’s attorneys expect the federal matter on the trial to be dismissed in early December. Becker said an appeal is planned.

“At stake is Plaintiff’s First Amendment right of expression in a traditional public forum—a public park,” Becker and Peffer wrote in their motion for a preliminary injunction.

Until last year, displays depicting the birth of Jesus Christ were allowed at Palisades Park as part of an exception to the general citywide rule prohibiting the erection of structures in public parks.

For decades, City Hall allowed religious institutions to use Palisades Park to erect unattended displays during the Christmas season. Through 2010, the City Hall exception was utilized by groups or churches wishing to celebrate the birth of Christ as told in the gospels of Luke and Matthew and presented the popular manger scene in diorama form.

Three-dimensional statutes of a baby Jesus surrounded by Joseph, Mary, and various angels and shepherds attracted many onlookers to a popular stretch of Ocean Avenue.

Other displays existed as well, promoting the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, for example. There were also atheist and solstice displays.

However, as Christmas 2011 approached, the number of groups requesting use of Palisades Park under the City Hall exception far exceeded the space available. Local officials resorted to a lottery system to determine who would be entitled to set up a display.

The lottery was employed, according to City staff, “in order to allocate display opportunities in an unbiased manner.”

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 being allocated (were) to displays that opposed religion,” staff added.

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.

Accordingly, the issue became tense with differing groups hoping to put up a winter display of some sort during the Christmas season. City Hall then began to contemplate whether to eliminate its exception altogether and extend the strict prohibition against private displays in public spaces within Santa Monica at Palisades Park.

The first nativity scene in a public setting in Santa Monica was in 1953.

According to reports, the City Attorney’s office stated city staff annually spends about 245 hours reviewing applications for spaces.

in News
Related Posts

Santa Monica City Councilmember’s Music Store Robbed for the Second Time This Year

November 30, 2021

November 30, 2021

September and November robberies at Santa Monica Music Center By Dolores Quintana Santa Monica City Councilmember Laura Negrete is co-owner...

Santa Monica to Become Part of New LA County Supervisorial District

November 30, 2021

November 30, 2021

LA County Redistricting to be handled by independent commission By Dolores Quintana The City of Santa Monica will become part...

Return Of International Travel Could Boost Local Economy: Santa Monica Beat – November 30, 2021

November 29, 2021

November 29, 2021

Local news and culture in under 5 minutes.* Calvary Church Nativity Scene Returns For The Holidays* Return Of International Travel...

Santa Monica Homeless Count Returns

November 23, 2021

November 23, 2021

January 26, 2022 date for annual count By Sam Catanzaro The Santa Monica Homeless Count is back after being canceled...

Petition To Divide SMMUSD On Its Way To County Officials: Santa Monica Beat – November 22, 2021

November 22, 2021

November 22, 2021

Local news and culture in under 5 minutes.* New Art Installation Pop Up Event Coming To Ocean Avenue * Petition To...

New Study Finds 1 in 5 Tweens Experience Cyberbullying

November 19, 2021

November 19, 2021

According to a recent study by the Cyberbullying Research center over 20% of tweens, aged 9 – 12 have experienced...

Veterans Demand Answers to Homeless Crisis Outside Ted Lieu’s West LA Office

November 19, 2021

November 19, 2021

Veterans took to the streets and marched from the West LA VA campus to the office of Ted Lieu, seeking...

Settlement Reached in Police Union Lawsuit Against the City of Santa Monica

November 18, 2021

November 18, 2021

Santa Monica Police Officers Association settles with City By Dolores Quintana The Santa Monica Police Officers Association (SMPOA) recently settled...

Victim Robbed in Broad Daylight, Shot at, After Parking Car in Santa Monica

November 18, 2021

November 18, 2021

Santa Monica police search for suspects in connection to November 15 incident By Sam Catanzaro Santa Monica police are searching...

No Arrests Made in Chess Park Airsoft Gun Incident

November 18, 2021

November 18, 2021

No victims of criminal threats, Santa Monica police say By Sam Catanzaro Santa Monica police say no arrests were made...

Getty Acquires 16th-Century Painting Never Seen by Public

November 17, 2021

November 17, 2021

Jacopo Bassano’s The Miracle of the Quails, 1554, has been rarely seen by scholars and never by the public By...

‘Annie Live!’ Elects Santa Monica Resident Alan Toy as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

November 16, 2021

November 16, 2021

Santa Monica resident Alan Toy has been cast as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in NBC’s holiday spectacular “Annie Live!”. Toy,...

Over $100K Raised in the Santa Monica Walk to End Alzheimer’s

November 16, 2021

November 16, 2021

Nearly 350 participate in October 24 event at Santa Monica Pier By Sam Catanzaro Over 300 Westside participants raised $127,063...

Local Church Seeks Community Help For Repairs

November 16, 2021

November 16, 2021

The Church in Ocean Park Is in need of a new roof after 100 years of service. Learn how you...