Judge rejects nativity scene displays in California - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Judge rejects nativity scene displays in California

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No more holiday manger displays in a Los Angeles area park.

A judge has denied a Christian committee's attempt to put up a nativity scene in a public park after a dispute with atheists.

Christian groups are calling this a "war on Christmas," but atheists say the decision to do away with holiday displays all together is what is fair for everyone.

For decades, a nativity scene has been a Christmas time staple at Palisades Park in Santa Monica, but this year, a judge denied a Christian committee's attempt to display it.

"Government is telling you how you can express your view point. Government's making you express it the way it wants you to express it. And that's what they've done in this case," said William Becker, Santa Monica Attorney for the Nativity Scene Committee.

The controversy over the holiday scenes began last year, when a lottery was held to determine which groups would be able to put up displays in the park and atheist groups won a majority of the spaces

This year, city officials decided to do away with all the scenes.

"The war on Christmas has officially begun in 2012 and it's not even Thanksgiving yet," said Jonathan Saenz with Texas Values

He says religious groups have the right to display nativity scenes in a public place.

Last year, an atheist group tried to have a nativity scene removed from a North Texas courthouse, but a judge ruled that it would stay put.

"We all have the right to express our religious views and Christmas scenes and nativity scenes are no different," said Saenz.

But a local atheist FOX 7 spoke with says this decision is a fair one.

"I would say it's a win for fairness in the sense that everyone is being treated the same. The Christian groups have been favored over the years even though the Constitution does allow that," Don Baker. "Folks can have displays on their private property, churches can do that and atheist groups with property can do that.

But the Christian committee in California will continue to fight for the displays to be allowed back in the park.

"My client doesn't want atheists or non-believers to be run out of the park," said Becker.

A lawsuit has been filed against the city of Santa Monica, and the attorney for the Santa Monica Nativity Scene Committee plans to appeal this judge's decision.

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