Ending a 60 year old tradition in Santa Monica, Calif., a federal judge Monday denied an attempt to compel the city to allow a nativity scene display in Palisades Park this Christmas season.
U.S. District Judge Audrey B. Collins rejected the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee’s bid to allow them to display the Nativity scene while their lawsuit to overcome the city’s recent ban on such displays goes through the court, according to a report from the Associated Press.
Collins ruled that because the life-sized display would affect all park visitors, the city was within its right to deny all exemptions to the ban.
The ban on unattended displays was was instituted last June when the city — following a heated dispute for display space space between atheists, who were posting anti-God messages, and religious groups — decided the lottery for booth space was too expensive.
“I think all of the evidence that is admissible about the aesthetic impacts and administrative burden shows that this was a very reasonable alternative for the city to go this way – and it had nothing to do with content,” she said during a hearing.
William Becker, the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee’s attorney, said that he plans to appeal when the case is dismissed, which he expects will happen on Dec. 3.
“The atheists won and they will always win unless we get courts to understand how the game is played and this is a game that was played very successfully and they knew it,” Becker said.