Atheists' challenges to Santa Monica nativity displays may put an end to the 60-year tradition

Published: Monday, Nov. 26 2012 1:59 p.m. MST

This Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012 photo shows avowed atheist Damon Vix in his home in Burbank, Calif. Vix last year won two-thirds of the booths in the annual, city-sponsored lottery to divvy up spaces in a live-sized Nativity display in Palisades Park in Santa Monica, Calif. But he only put up one thing: A sign that read "Religions are all alike - founded on fables and mythologies." Vix left the rest of his allotted spaces empty, and in so doing, upended a Christmas tradition that began in Santa Monica nearly 60 years ago.

Reed Saxon, Associated Press

Our take: For nearly 60 years, a coalition of Santa Monica churches displayed a series of nativity images in a local park — until religious controversy ensued.

Last year, atheists led by Damon Vix won 18 of the 21 slots in a city-sponsored lottery for the holiday displays, creating tension. This year, in an effort to avoid controversy, the city has proposed a motion to ban seasonal public displays.

This article from the Los Angeles Times explores the next step for churches wanting to continuing the traditional holiday displays.

A coalition of church groups that has erected Nativity scenes in Santa Monica for more than 50 years is pondering its next steps after a federal judge ruled the city has the right to bar seasonal public displays.

William J. Becker, an attorney for the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee, said he would consult with his "brain trust" to determine what steps the coalition would take if Judge Audrey B. Collins grants the city's motion to dismiss the church group's case at a hearing next month.

Since 1953, the coalition each December has erected a tableau of scenes depicting the birth of Jesus in Palisades Park.

A few years ago, the tradition offended Damon Vix, an atheist, who applied to put up a booth next to the Nativity story. Last year, he encouraged other atheists to flood the city with applications, including a satirical homage to the "Pastafarian religion" featuring a representation of the "Flying Spaghetti Monster."

Read more about the future of holiday displays on The Los Angeles Times.

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