All it took was Damon Vix to put up an anti-god display at Palisades Park to get the city of Santa Monica, CA, to cancel all holiday displays. Vix's display was placed adjacent to a nativity scene.
Fox News reports that the decision by Santa Monica officials was made in order to avoid unrest, but a group of churches that erect a large display consisting of fourteen separate scenes has decided to respond by filing a lawsuit. The city has stated it would reject the case.
The report states that Hunter Jamison, the head of the Santa Monica Nativity Scene Committee, the group bringing the suit, says,
"It's a sad, sad commentary on the attitudes of the day that a nearly 60-year-old Christmas tradition is now having to hunt for a home, something like our savior had to hunt for a place to be born because the world was not interested."
Ironically, Damon Vix and supporters will not be present in the courtroom, as they are not involved in the suit.
Citing a recent survey that revealed a significant jump in citizens who either hold no belief in god, or do not attend church, the co-President of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Annie Laurie Gaylor released a statement that said, in part,
"We're at the bottom of the totem pole socially, but we have muscle and we're flexing it." Ignore our numbers at your peril."
Santa Monica entered the religious holiday display fray three years ago, when Damon Vix first got his application for a booth in the park accepted. His original display consisted of a sign with a quote from Thomas Jefferson, and a 'Happy Solstice' greeting.
The following year, Vix and ten other supporters applied for additional spots at the park, including a depiction of the 'Flying Spaghetti Monster,' and a tribute to 'Pastafarianism.' As a result, the atheists were granted eighteen out of twenty-one spaces available, leaving only two for traditional displays by Christians and the Jewish community.
The uproar resulted in the destruction of many of the atheist displays, which prompted Santa Monica officials to put a stop to the displays for the first time in almost sixty years.
Regarding the suit, the Fox report quotes William Becker, a lawyer for the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee as stating,
"If they want to hold an opposing viewpoint about the celebration of Christmas, they're free to do that, but they can't interfere with our right to engage in religious speech in a traditional public forum. Our goal is to preserve the tradition in Santa Monica and to keep Christmas alive."
Vix was reported as being surprised by the city's decision, stating,
"That was such a unique and blatant example of the violation of the First Amendment that I felt I had to act. If I had another goal, it would be to remove the 'under God' phrase from the Pledge of Allegiance, but that's a little too big for me to take on for right now."
The entirety of the argument stands on differing interpretations of the separation clause of the First Amendment.
Read more here.