Christians Find ‘Creative’ Loophole in Atheist-Inspired Santa Monica Nativity Ban & Secure Permit for ‘Live’ Display

For the past year, atheists and Christians have been battling over the presence of nativity displays in public parks in Santa Monica, California. In an effort to temper the bickering, the city inevitably implemented a ban on all religious speech in local parks, thus ending a nearly-60-year tradition of having a display in Palisades Park. Just when all hope for Christians who wished to see the nativity tradition continued was lost, local believers found a loophole — one that will allow them to, once again, host a nativity.

According to a press release, Santa Monica’s atheist-inspired ban on nativity displays only applies to those which are “unattended.” This essentially means that displays which are not “live” and involve figurines may not be utilized, however there is no provision or ban on religious displays that are “attended” (displays that involve human beings).

FILE – In this Dec. 13, 2011 file photo, a woman walks past a sign displaying an Atheist message along Ocean Avenue at Palisades Park in Santa Monica, Calif. A Los Angeles federal judge on Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012 dismissed a Christian group’s lawsuit to force suburban Santa Monica to reopen spaces in Palisades Park to private displays, including Christmas Nativity scenes. Credit: AP

Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition posted a press release in which he announced that a faith coalition in Santa Monica applied for a live nativity display — a request that was granted by the city. The news release calls the development in a case that seemed all but hopeless for local believers “a major victory for religious freedom, the First Amendment and the public display of nativity scenes.”

While the traditional display that has been present for nearly six decades will not be erected in Palisades Park, on Dec. 8, between 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., a live nativity will unfold. Californians are also being encouraged to bring the nativity scenes that they would display in their homes with them to the event, which is being called, “The Birth of Christ. The Birth of Freedom. The Santa Monica Nativity.”

Mahoney, who directs the Christian Defense Coalition, a group that advocates for the presence of nativities on public property, made known his delight with the loophole and the ability to setup shop in Palisades Park.

FILE – In this Dec. 13, 2011 file photo, a man walks past two of the traditional Nativity scenes along Ocean Avenue at Palisades Park in Santa Monica, Calif. Avowed atheist Damon Vix last year won two-thirds of the booths in the annual, city-sponsored lottery to divvy up spaces in the live-sized Nativity display. Credit: AP

“We are so thankful that a Nativity Display will be seen in Palisades Park for a 60th Consecutive year,” he said in the release. “It is critical that the faith community did not allow the City of Santa Monica and the federal court to crush the First Amendment and religious freedom by banning a nativity display in Palisades Park.”

The faith leader encouraged Christians across America to “speak out with passion and courage” and to stand up for their free speech rights.

“By finding a way to creatively address this injustice, the powerful message of Christmas and religious freedom will continue to be heard and [seen] in Palisades Park,” he continued.