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Austin Cline

Santa Monica Christians Sue to Restore Favoritism, Privileged Status

By October 16, 2012

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Santa Monica is being sued by Christians who are upset that the city is no longer giving them and their Christmas displays favored, privileged status. Why? No particular reason - the Christians simply feel that they deserve to be treated as special while everyone else should just be ignored.

1950s Nativity Display
1950s Nativity Display
Photo: H. Armstrong Roberts / Getty

In 2011, Santa Monica changed their 60-year-old policy of giving exclusive space to nativity displays. Instead, they held a lottery for the 21 spots available. Atheists won the right to use 18 and a Jewish group got one, leaving two for Christians instead of the 14 they used to have exclusive use of.

Christians didn't like competing and complained that it was unfair that they had to accept being treated like everyone else. So the city of Santa Monica decided to not allow any unattended displays at all. Christians there don't like this, either, thus the lawsuit.

Attorney William J. Becker Jr., who represents the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes committee, filed suit in U.S. District Court on Tuesday and called for the city to restore the nearly 60 year-old tradition.

"The city violated the First Amendment by denying religious speech in the park, which is a traditional public forum, so the complain seeks an order from the court declaring the city's actions to be unconstitutional," Becker said.

Source: DBS

I doubt that Becker has much hope and if he has any clue about constitutional law, he probably knows this. The city would be violating the law if they banned religious displays alone. The city is not violating the law if they ban unattended private displays entirely - especially if it's a ban that applies all year rather than just over the holidays.

So if the ban really is on private unattended displays, then it doesn't single out religious speech and hence doesn't violate the First Amendment.

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