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Churches take City of Santa Monica to court over nativity scene ban

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It wouldn’t be Christmas without a nativity scene… lawsuit. After the Santa Monica City Council voted to ban private displays in Palisades Park this year,  the nonprofit Santa Monica Nativity Scene Committee, which has been producing elaborate nativity scenes in the park for decades, filed a lawsuit against the city, claiming their right to free speech was being violated.   

The city banned nativity scenes and all private displays after atheists and other organizations began inundating the park with displays in recent years. A U.S. District Court judge heard the case today.  The churches were hoping the judge would grant an injunction allowing them to mount their displays while the case is being reviewed, but this morning the judge ruled in favor of the city.  The group’s attorney, William Becker, has indicated they will appeal the decision.

Who should have the right to set up opinionated or religious displays in public spaces? Is the City of Santa Monica obstructing free speech by banning all the displays?


Robert A. Pugsley, professor of law, Southwestern University Law School