Atheists’ move halts Christmas tradition in California, churches go to court to get it back

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LOS ANGELES –  Damon Vix didn’t have to go to court to push Christmas out of the city of Santa Monica. He just joined the festivities.

 


The atheist’s anti-God message alongside a life-sized nativity display in a park overlooking the beach ignited a debate that burned brighter than any Christmas candle.

Santa Monica officials snuffed the city’s holiday tradition this year rather than referee the religious rumble, prompting churches that have set up a 14-scene Christian diorama for decades to sue over freedom of speech violations. Their attorney will ask a federal judge Monday to resurrect the depiction of Jesus’ birth, while the city aims to eject the case.

“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,” said Hunter Jameson, head of the nonprofit Santa Monica Nativity Scene Committee that is suing.

Missing from the courtroom drama will be Vix and his fellow atheists, who are not parties to the case. Their role outside court highlights a tactical shift as atheists evolve into a vocal minority eager to get their non-beliefs into the public square as never before.

National atheist groups earlier this year took out full-page newspaper ads and hundreds of TV spots in response to the Catholic bishops’ activism around women’s health care issues and are gearing up to battle for their own space alongside public Christmas displays in small towns across America this season.

“In recent years, the tactic of many in the atheist community has been, if you can’t beat them, join them,” said Charles Haynes, a senior scholar at the First Amendment Center and director of the Newseum’s Religious Freedom Education Project in Washington. “If these church groups insist that these public spaces are going to be dominated by a Christian message, we’ll just get in the game — and that changes everything.”

 

Written By: AP-Fox News
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20 COMMENTS

  1. from the article “The Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee argues in its lawsuit that atheists have the right to protest, but that freedom doesn’t trump the Christians’ right to free speech.
    “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,” said William Becker, attorney for the committee. “Our goal is to preserve the tradition in Santa Monica and to keep Christmas alive.”

    So we’re allowed to voice our opinion, that’s nice, but not if it interferes with your voice, I see. Turns out it was christian vandals that interfered with your rights, how about a little circumspection on Sunday.

  2. I wonder which version of the Nativity narrative Santa Monica are arguing for….the article doesn’t say, so I’m thinking it must be the Luke version of the bollocks as I see shepherds and an angel in the photo from the article.

  3. Oh crap, I foresee a Stephen Baldwin/Kirk Cameron straight-to-DVD collaboration on the horizon.

    (Do you know that if you type “Kirk Cameron Stephen…” then one of the first results that pops up in Google’s predicty thing is “kirk cameron stephen hawking debate”. Forget Stephen Fry vs. Anne Widdecombe or Christopher Hitchens vs. Tony Blair; that is the clash of intellects I want to see.)

  4. many of the signs were vandalized

    Nothing but coal for your collective stockings >(

    Can’t believe Santa Monica has a frickin’ “nativity scene committee”.
    That takes the fruitcake.

    the trouble began 3 years ago

    Wrong. It began when piece number one was set on a public park.
    They got a free ride for 60 years.

    preserving the park’s aesthetics

    Nothing like fake items housed in plywood and chicken wire to warm the cockles of the heart.

  5. if you can’t beat them, join them”

    Sounds fair and reasonable. Depicting those mythical nativity scenes doesn’t bother me, but let’s also have Santa, some of his elves and reindeer, Scrooge and the 3 ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, and even the Grinch and Frosty the Snowman gathered around the manger too. The more the Merrier Saturnia!

  6. “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,”
    Why not in their churches ? Isn’t that the appropriate place ?
    Oh, I guess not many people go there anymore.

  7. These 3-dimensional displays of mythological scenes are a work of art, kids love them.   Personally my favorite is to be found inside a large dragon in Singapore.  Full of rats and rabbits doing battle,  I think, and lots of other strange stuff.   This is one of the best…

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/e

    I’d be disappointed if that got liquidated due to some squabble over use of public space.

  8. OHooligan
    These 3-dimensional displays of mythological scenes are a work of art, kids love them.

    There could always be the odd one for the adults.

    A Viking Mid-Winter Yuletide Beer Festival, with a nice reindeer spit-roasting over the fire – perhaps!

  9. “The atheists used half their spaces, displaying signs such as one that showed pictures of Poseidon, Jesus, Santa Claus and the devil”

    Only half ! Given that Vix is a set builder it’s a shame he couldn’t come up with something more inspiring and 3D; atheist sculptors do exist.

    Since “The city doesn’t prohibit churches from caroling in the park, handing out literature or even staging a play about the birth of Jesus” why not a modern passion play on a contentious topical issue or perhaps a bit of Brecht…or poetry, or paintings or films?

    A wasted opportunity

  10. “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,” said Hunter Jameson, head of the nonprofit Santa Monica Nativity Scene Committee that is suing.

    Poor old Jesus! I mean He makes the universe in 6 days, and then He can’t find Himself somewhere to be born! He can’t even find Himself a parking space in Santa Monica!  No doubt it’s a hard life being the Almighty!

    Never mind, He’s got His lake of fire to keep Him warm during the northern winter!

  11. Awww look at that wonderful display of white polystyrene figures and little lambs.(is that a pregnant angel??!!)Makes me feel all christmassy and lovey for the baby jebus.Particularly like the little white polystyrene sheep dropping by the sweet little lamb on the right, so realistic. Who wouldn’t want this lovely display with blue tarpaulin and chicken wire in the heart of their city? I wouldn’t!!!!

  12. Hey, it’s gotta have shepherds and angels, or it aint a Nativity.

    Well that’s not strictly accurate. There are a number of Nativities”…, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N… …but let’s just focus on the Nativity of Jesus…or should I say, Nativities of Jesus….all three of them.
    “A nativity scene takes its inspiration from the accounts of the birth of Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Luke’s narrative describes an angel announcing the birth of Jesus to shepherds who then visit the humble site where Jesus is found lying in a manger, a trough for cattle feed. Matthew’s narrative tells of “wise men”, Magi, who follow a star to the house where Jesus dwelt, and indicates that the Magi found Jesus some time later, less than two years after his birth, rather than on the exact day. Matthew’s account does not mention the angels and shepherds, while Luke’s narrative is silent on the Magi and the star. The Magi and the angels are often displayed in a nativity scene with the Holy Family and the shepherds although there is no scriptural basis for their presence.”

    Many Nativity scenes have themes from just Luke, or just Matthew, or both, or neither. Here’s an early depiction from the 4th century…  http://www.stradaregina.ch/arc… 
    No Magi, Shepherds, Angels, parents…a few swastika’s though for good luck I guess.

    There are many configurations on the themes… http://www.google.es/search?q=

    My favourite is the parody from “The Life of Brian”.

    Thanks for the Caganer link, I’m currently residing in Spain and this will be my first Christmas out here. I will be keeping an eye out for that wee shitter, or even this giant one, http://laughingsquid.com/world
    Absolutely fantastic. Ya learn something new on this site everyday…thanks again.

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