Saturday, October 13, 2012

Suit Challenges City's Ban On Traditional Nativity Diorama In Park

Earlier this week, a suit was filed in a California federal district court challenging the 2010 decision of the city of Santa Monica to adopt regulations that bar a group comprised of 13 churches and a police organization from continuing the 60-year tradition of erecting a series Christmas story dioramas in Palisades Park during the holiday season.  In recent years, the display consisted of a sequential 14-scene story of Christmas. Each display was in an 18-foot long booth and included life-size mannequins and props. The city took the action after controversy in recent years when secular groups won substantial space in a neutral lottery for space and put up secular and anti-religious signs. The complaint (full text) in Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee v. City of Santa Monica, (CD CA, filed 10/9/2012) contends:
By amending the ordinance ... Defendant City succumbed to a "heckler's veto" and has thereby given preference to a messages hostile to religion, particularly Christianity.
It claims the city has imposed a content-based restriction on speech, has violated the Establishment Clause by adopting a policy that reflects hostility to Christianity and our nation's religious heritage, and has violated the equal protection clause by denying use of a public forum to those whose messages it finds unacceptable.

CBS News reports on the lawsuit.