Home / News / Santa Monica, California, bans Christmas displays in reaction to atheist display
Santa Monica, California, bans Christmas displays in reaction to atheist display

Santa Monica, California, bans Christmas displays in reaction to atheist display

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.

About Al Stefanelli

Al is a retired author, writer and journalist. His books include "Free Thoughts - A Collection Of Essays By An American Atheist" and "A Voice Of Reason In An Unreasonable World - The Rise Of Atheism On Planet Earth." Al began writing in 1985, starting with the New York Times. In 1993 he joined a McClatchy newspaper, writing a weekly column for ten years. His writing continues to be widely distributed on the Internet and in print. He also produced and hosted a weekly syndicated radio broadcast from 1995 to 1998, and his work won a North Carolina Journalism award in 1998. Al is the former Georgia State Director for American Atheists, Inc., and served on the Board of Directors for "The Clergy Project." He is also a former Southern Baptist Pastor, having served two churches and as pulpit supply for three counties. Currently, he writes part time for The God Discussion, co-hosts the Internet radio programs, "The God Discussion Show" and "Reap Sow Radio." Al lives in the Atlanta suburb of Peachtree City, GA.
  • Deborah_B

    I heard this on the news this morning. Oh boy — this is going to get the "religious liberty" folks riled up big time. It seems to make more sense to me given these situations to keep religious displays on private property and for public entities to stay out of the fray.

  • mn22

    Well Mr. Vix enjoy your Christmas Eve, alone in your basement apartment, eating your gruel and repeating "bah humbug" over and over.

  • Pingback: Fight over Santa Monica Nativity displays heads to court today – Los Angeles Times | Devise Hive()

  • evs

    Religious freedom extends to people who denounce religion as well. Well played Mr. Vix. It's about time.

  • rabbit

    "The uproar resulted in the destruction of many of the atheist displays…" Hmm did atheists destroy nativity displays? No. Maybe this article should be titled "Santa Monica

    bans Christmas displays in reaction to violent and destructive Christians.."

  • rabbit

    "The uproar resulted in the destruction of many of the atheist displays…" Maybe the article should be titled "Santa Monica bans Christmas displays in reaction to destructive Christians"

  • What The?

    It never ceases to amaze me how far a person will go to fight something they say does not exist…

    • JS

      Tell that to climate change deniers and young Earth creationists.

    • Shęldon Hęlms

      Actually, we're not fighting against the thing that doesn't exist (i.e., god). We're trying to undo the damage people like you have done over the years in convincing people that imaginary beings control their fate. See how that's different? No? Didn't think so. That's one of the other side effects of being a "believer." It's called "lack of critical thinking."

  • Pingback: Nativity display lawsuit: Atheists vs. Christians in Santa Monica (+video) – Christian Science Monitor | Devise Hive()

  • PJI Fights For Christmas Free Speech Rights

    Los Angeles – The Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) filed a lawsuit against the City of Santa Monica after a nearly 60-year tradition was unconstitutionally terminated by city officials.

    Each Christmas season, for nearly 60 years, visitors of the Palisades Park in Santa Monica, California, were able to enjoy diverse displays—privately hosted—featuring different aspects of the Nativity scene. This annual tradition was bombarded in recent years with challenges from adamant atheists.

    The complaints led the City to opening up the display spaces to others interested in using them on a first-come first-serve lottery basis. In 2011 atheists collaborated together, and secured 18 of the 21 spaces. They left spaces empty, and filled others with anti-religious, secular statements.

    One of the atheists was quoted as saying, “the atheist groups had no real desire to set up displays, but wanted to counter the Nativity scenes in size and message.” In response to the increased competition for spaces, and the potential for greater controversy, the City Council of Santa Monica opted to do away with the annual tradition instead of welcoming free speech.

    The lawsuit, filed by Los Angeles area Becker Law Firm with PJI attorney Michael Peffer as co-counsel, aims to reinstate the long-held tradition, and restore the free-speech that has been banned.

    “Stopping this tradition is one of the worst things the City could have done. They have, in effect, given in to the atheists' demands,” said Brad Dacus, president of PJI. “Government officials throwing out traditional free speech opportunities due to fear of controversy is unwise, and unconstitutional, behavior,” Dacus noted.

    Pacific Justice Institute is a non-profit legal organization dedicated to defending religious, parental, and other constitutional rights. PJI.org


    • Peter

      Are you one of those who says; "he's the reason for the season." Actually, Christmas has nothing to do with Jesus. It's a Pagan holiday the early Christians stole from the Sun God Mithra as well and nearly everything else associated with it. Even the Catholic Encyclopaedia admits that. Read about the history of your early church, get enlightened.

      • JS

        No, no, no. It was a ROMAN holiday, Saturnalia, that was adopted.

        • Peter

          To best of my knowledge is was Mithra/Sol Invictus celebrated at the winter solstice. Whatever the case it certainly wasn't Jesus' birthday. In fact, I believe in neither the OT or NT is someones birthday celebrated but I stand to be corrected.

          • k'Sheyna

            Actually, as I understand it there were several religions through history that celebrated at the end of December. Pagans I know celebrate December 22, the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year.

            • JS

              While many pagan religions celebrate the end of December, it was the Saturnalia that was the basis. When Constantine told Rome "Hey, guess what, you're Christian now," to soften the blow they kept many of the pagan holiday celebrations and just saddled saints onto them. Christmas, which was celebrated early January (6th, I believe) was moved up a couple weeks to take over Saturnalia's gift-giving and caroling.

              Funny and unrelated sidenote, Xmas is not an Atheist invention. X was a common abbreviation for Christ in the middle ages, since most of the public was illiterate it was easy for them to associate the shape with the cross. Xmas has been used for Christmas for over half a millennium.

    • Deborah_B

      Pacific Justice – Why can't the church displays be placed on private property instead of the park?

      • Spuddie

        Because its just not truly part of their faith unless everyone else pays for it in their taxes.

    • Spuddie

      Of course this all comes down to the Christians were either too slow or too lazy to rent enough public space for their displays. First come first serve means you don't get any kind of special privilege because of your faith. Which is the way things should run. No favoritism, least of all for people looking for sectarian endorsement by government.

      What it comes down to is you are moaning about the lack of enterprise of your own people.

  • Pingback: Christians trying again for a Nativity scene permit at park in Santa Monica | God Discussion()

Scroll To Top