Judge upholds ban on Santa Monica Nativity

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SANTA MONICA, Calif. — The Santa Monica Nativity Scenes, a 60-year tradition along Palisades Park, will be dark this December after a federal judge declined to overturn the city's new ban on the Christmas tradition.

 In her Nov. 19 decision, U.S. District Judge Audrey B. Collins said the city could ban the display because its policy was not just limited to Christian displays and that other avenues of religious expression were available.

The nativity, which earned the city the moniker of "The City of the Christmas Story City," depicts numerous scenes and was sponsored by various churches. Last year the city revamped the process for securing space along the park, but atheists teamed up to squeeze out the Nativity. This year the city decided to ban all displays.

The Nativity committee, made up of numerous churches and the Santa Monica Police Officers Association, filed suit Oct. 9, seeking to overturn the ban. The injunction would have allowed the scenes to be displayed this Christmas while the case works its way through the court system.

On Dec. 3, the judge will consider a motion for summary judgment, which if approved would dismiss the case altogether. William Becker Jr., of the Becker Law Firm, represents the committee and said it's unlikely his clients will prevail at the upcoming hearing.

"Based on the court's reasoning in the motion already heard, we are not optimistic the court will side with us on the city's motion," Becker said in a statement on his website. "Should the city prevail, the case will be dismissed, and the committee will need to decide whether it wishes to appeal the ruling."

For more information, visit www.santamonicanativityscenes.org.