Committee not giving up on nativity scene

Thursday, January 3, 2013
Becky Yeh - California correspondent (

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 park.

Becker, William J.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.

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