Santa Monica Nativity Scene Ban Sparks Debate

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On Tuesday, the city Santa Monica, California, ended an almost fifty year tradition of allowing nativity scenes along 14 pieces of public property overlooking the ocean. The ban occurs after eleven of the locations went to atheist organizations through their lottery system, while only two went to churches and one went to a synagogue this past December. The atheist spaces proceeded to post mock nativity scenes like the one below:

Atheist Nativity Scene
Atheist nativity scene in Santa Monica, California. Credit: Athiests United

After the ban was announced, The Freedom From Religion leader Laurie Gaylord stated that, “They showed the Christian people of the city what it feels like to have a public park promoting views that offend your personal conscience. These views were on public property that were supposed to be owned equally by everyone.”

Meanwhile, the Christian groups who oppose the ban believe that nativity scenes bring the community together and rather than banning all nativity scenes, they should make stricter guidelines on what should be allowed. However, the City Council stated that the stricter guidelines they requested could be viewed as discriminatory and therefore were not implemented.

So now, the question has been raised: What should public land be able to be used for? Should it be available to equally to all religious groups or merely those that are considered the popular majority?

Many argue that based upon the Constitution’s First Amendment, public land should not be allowed for religious use at all. When the city of Santa Monica allowed this to occur almost fifty years ago, they continued a popular tradition of ignoring legal obligation to not endorse certain religious groups over others carried on by all levels of the American Government.

Others argue that the original Christian use of the property did not harm any one and could be ignored by citizens who did not agree with the message. They believe public property should be able to be used however the local government deems acceptable.

One thing is for certain: the debate over the separation of church and state involving public land will rage for years to come.

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  1. jesuschrystler Correction= ban of all holiday displays banned.Spreading false news that just the nativity was banned is sensationalism. The atheist groups played along with the lottery and the Christians complained when atheists had their voices heard. The Christian groups only wanted their display and not EQUAL rights as granted by the Bill of Rights.
  2. Ryan McLain My apologies for not directly saying that the ban was of all displays, not just nativity scenes. I though that would be inferred from the article. The Christian groups did not want only their displays? Jewish displays had been there for years coexisting with the Christian ones.
  3. Lauren Moore He didn't say just the nativity scene is banned if you read the article. The headline is still accurate because nativity scenes were banned. Similarly, it is against freedom of speech to use your voice to attack another's opinion. By mocking the christians the atheists abused their rights. Also, the Christians had no problem with the Jewish synagog playing along either and I'm sure before the atheist groups attacked the religious displays, they were fine with that too.
  4. Lauren Moore Why are we wasting public money and resources for these types of things? If this is a tradition, why can't we just let them keep their nativity scenes. When did atheism become about mocking other people? The christian nativity scenes do not outwardly attack atheism. And considering there was a jewish booth as well, I doubt a booth dedicated to the education of science or the awareness of atheism would have been dismissed. What the atheists did was malicious and rude.
  5. Amos Cooper I agree. Everyone should have use to public land. I'm fine with the nativity scene on public land as long as everyone else who wanted to use it got their chance as well. It's public land for use by everyone.
5 comments
jesuschrystler
jesuschrystler

Correction= ban of all holiday displays banned.

Spreading false news that just the nativity was banned is sensationalism. The atheist groups played along with the lottery and the Christians complained when atheists had their voices heard. The Christian groups only wanted their display and not EQUAL rights as granted by the Bill of Rights.

Lauren Moore
Lauren Moore

Why are we wasting public money and resources for these types of things? If this is a tradition, why can't we just let them keep their nativity scenes. When did atheism become about mocking other people? The christian nativity scenes do not outwardly attack atheism. And considering there was a jewish booth as well, I doubt a booth dedicated to the education of science or the awareness of atheism would have been dismissed. What the atheists did was malicious and rude.

Ryan McLain
Ryan McLain

My apologies for not directly saying that the ban was of all displays, not just nativity scenes. I though that would be inferred from the article. The Christian groups did not want only their displays? Jewish displays had been there for years coexisting with the Christian ones.

Lauren Moore
Lauren Moore

He didn't say just the nativity scene is banned if you read the article. The headline is still accurate because nativity scenes were banned. Similarly, it is against freedom of speech to use your voice to attack another's opinion. By mocking the christians the atheists abused their rights. Also, the Christians had no problem with the Jewish synagog playing along either and I'm sure before the atheist groups attacked the religious displays, they were fine with that too.

Amos Cooper
Amos Cooper

I agree. Everyone should have use to public land. I'm fine with the nativity scene on public land as long as everyone else who wanted to use it got their chance as well. It's public land for use by everyone.