A California legal group hopes a federal appeals court will
uphold the First Amendment and overrule a lower-court ruling
dealing with a decades-old nativity display.
Attorneys for the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee have
appealed a federal court's ruling to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court
of Appeals. U.S. District Court Judge Audrey Collins last month dismissed the lawsuit that sought to
re-implement a 14-booth nativity display that had been present in
Palisades Park for nearly 60 years. She decided that the city of
Santa Monica had the right to ban all displays in the public
But William Becker, Jr. of
The Becker Law Firm says Judge Collins' ruling turns the First
Amendment on its head.
"We believe the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has
recognized the doctrine of the heckler's veto, will understand that
the city reacted to pressure put on it by people hostile to the
expression of the nativity group," the attorney states. "And that
is a direct violation of the First Amendment."
The city had implemented a lottery system that caused
controversy, ultimately allowing atheist groups to claim a majority
of the lots to place signs and banners attacking Christmas and
Christianity. So in order to comply with all groups, the city chose
to completely remove all displays.