Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Court Upholds Santa Monica's Ban On Park Christmas Display

AP reports that a California federal district court yesterday denied a preliminary injunction in Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee v. City of Santa Monica, (CD CA, Nov. 19 2012).  The suit involved a challenge to a Santa Moncia (CA) ordinance that prevented a group from continuing the 60-year tradition of erecting a series Christmas story dioramas in Palisades Park during the holiday season. (See prior posting.) In recent years, controversy has surrounded holiday displays in the park after secular groups won substantial space in a neutral lottery for space and put up secular and anti-religious signs. According to AP:
The judge, however, said Santa Monica proved that it banned the displays not to squash religious speech but because they were becoming a drain on city resources, destroying the turf and obstructing ocean views. Churches can set up unattended displays at 12 other parks in the city with a permit and can leaflet, carol and otherwise present the Christmas story in Palisades Park when it is open, she said.
UPDATE: The opinion in Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee v. City of Santa Monica, (CD CA, Nov. 19, 2012) is at 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 167525.