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Battle Over Coastal Christmas Display Goes to LA Court

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 http://xfinity.comcast.net/articles/news-national/20121118/US.Nativity.Scene.Atheists/?cid=hero_media

  

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."

In the past, atheists primarily fought to uphold the separation of church and state through the courts. The change underscores the conviction held by many nonbelievers that their views are gaining a foothold, especially among young adults.

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released a study last month that found 20 percent of Americans say they have no religious affiliation, an increase from 15 percent in the last five years. Atheists took heart from the report, although Pew researchers stressed that the category also encompassed majorities of people who said they believed in God but had no ties with organized religion and people who consider themselves "spiritual" but not "religious."

"We're at the bottom of the totem pole socially, but we have muscle and we're flexing it," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation. "Ignore our numbers at your peril."

The trouble in Santa Monica began three years ago, when Vix applied for and was granted a booth in Palisades Park alongside the story of Jesus Christ's birth, from Mary's visit from the Angel Gabriel to the traditional crèche.

Vix hung a simple sign that quoted Thomas Jefferson: "Religions are all alike -- founded on fables and mythologies." The other side read "Happy Solstice." He repeated the display the following year but then upped the stakes significantly.

In 2011, Vix recruited 10 others to inundate the city with applications for tongue-in-cheek displays such as a homage to the "Pastafarian religion," which would include an artistic representation of the great Flying Spaghetti Monster.

The secular coalition won 18 of 21 spaces. The two others went to the traditional Christmas displays and one to a Hanukkah display.

The atheists used half their spaces, displaying signs such as one that showed pictures of Poseidon, Jesus, Santa Claus and the devil and said: "37 million Americans know myths when they see them. What myths do you see?"

Most of the signs were vandalized and in the ensuing uproar, the city effectively ended a tradition that began in 1953 and earned Santa Monica one of its nicknames, the City of the Christmas Story.

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."

The city doesn't prohibit churches from caroling in the park, handing out literature or even staging a play about the birth of Jesus and churches can always set up a nativity on private land, Deputy City Attorney Jeanette Schachtner said in an email.

The decision to ban the displays also saves the city, which had administered the cumbersome lottery process used to award booths, both time and money while preserving the park's aesthetics, she said.

For his part, Vix is surprised - and slightly amused - at the legal battle spawned by his solitary act but doesn't plan anything further.

"That was such a unique and blatant example of the violation of the First Amendment that I felt I had to act," said the 44-year-old set builder. "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 First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and religion, but also states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." That has been interpreted by courts as providing for separation of church and state, barring government bodies from promoting, endorsing or funding religion or religious institutions.

by on Nov. 19, 2012 at 7:29 AM
Replies (151-160):
Arroree
by Ruby Member on Nov. 19, 2012 at 1:36 PM


Quoting Heather_309:

The things is, there isn't a banner on the nativity scene saying "This represents the birth of Jesus Christ, if you don't believe in him you will burn in hell!"
If it had, that would offend many atheist.


Considering that one of the main tenets of Christianity has always been "believe or die/burn in hell" yes seeing it can feel like you're having that message shoved at you.  In cases such as this it pushes the message that this is the religion supported by our government, which only increases that feeling of not belonging, not being wanted around, if you're not of that religion.  Especially considering many nativities put on government property during the holidays tend to include a sign with the 10 comandments, which as i'm sure you know, includes the command "Thou shalt have no other god before me"

candlegal
by Judy on Nov. 19, 2012 at 1:41 PM

Which sect of Christianity pushes believe or burn in hell?   None that I know of.

Quoting Arroree:


Quoting Heather_309:

The things is, there isn't a banner on the nativity scene saying "This represents the birth of Jesus Christ, if you don't believe in him you will burn in hell!"
If it had, that would offend many atheist.


Considering that one of the main tenets of Christianity has always been "believe or die/burn in hell" yes seeing it can feel like you're having that message shoved at you.  In cases such as this it pushes the message that this is the religion supported by our government, which only increases that feeling of not belonging, not being wanted around, if you're not of that religion.  Especially considering many nativities put on government property during the holidays tend to include a sign with the 10 comandments, which as i'm sure you know, includes the command "Thou shalt have no other god before me"


romalove
by Roma on Nov. 19, 2012 at 1:42 PM

 

Quoting Arroree:

 

Quoting Heather_309:

The things is, there isn't a banner on the nativity scene saying "This represents the birth of Jesus Christ, if you don't believe in him you will burn in hell!"
If it had, that would offend many atheist.


Considering that one of the main tenets of Christianity has always been "believe or die/burn in hell" yes seeing it can feel like you're having that message shoved at you.  In cases such as this it pushes the message that this is the religion supported by our government, which only increases that feeling of not belonging, not being wanted around, if you're not of that religion.  Especially considering many nativities put on government property during the holidays tend to include a sign with the 10 comandments, which as i'm sure you know, includes the command "Thou shalt have no other god before me"

 What I made bigger.....

Yes.  But....

I think the other message, more subtle but there and for the religious even more important is, just as when I drive down the block and see which houses have Christmas trees and Santas I know they are Christian, having those symbols on public lands mean they are Christian too.

THAT is the message that is so bad.

Bookwormy
by Platinum Member on Nov. 19, 2012 at 1:42 PM
1 mom liked this
42yo is middle aged. I went to Orthodox Jewish day schools till 10th grade. I went to the day school run by the Lubbavitch Chabbad that sued over the Christmas tree in Pittsburgh. I don't need a rabbi to give me my opinion. I guess I care more about my freedom from government establishment than the Jews you know.

Quoting gammie:

Every signal Jewish person I have ever talk too have always said they don't gave a damn. Even the people on TV like reporters, Celebrities. It seems like a young Jewish people feel like they should not like it, talk to your Rabbi, traditional have never given a damn.





Quoting Bookwormy:

I'm a Jew. Its old, sharp, & grating like cheese. I care. I support my 1st Amendment right freedom from government establishment of religion. I give a darn.







Quoting gammie:

Will we have Jewish people in the family and that is what the say.









Quoting LucyMom08:

 You have got to be kidding...






Quoting gammie:






Like is said you go after this and than you go after something else. Why can't we just respect each other. Christmas trees, lights, getting gifts and yes even seeing a nativity has brought a lot of smiles to kids and adults. Why now?






We all know that lights, trees, gifts and a decoration are not part of the bible stories but they bring happiness. All the Jewish people that have had to put up with this don't give a damn. So why do un-religous people care so much?






 









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romalove
by Roma on Nov. 19, 2012 at 1:44 PM

 

Quoting candlegal:

Which sect of Christianity pushes believe or burn in hell?   None that I know of.

Quoting Arroree:

 

Quoting Heather_309:

The things is, there isn't a banner on the nativity scene saying "This represents the birth of Jesus Christ, if you don't believe in him you will burn in hell!"
If it had, that would offend many atheist.


Considering that one of the main tenets of Christianity has always been "believe or die/burn in hell" yes seeing it can feel like you're having that message shoved at you.  In cases such as this it pushes the message that this is the religion supported by our government, which only increases that feeling of not belonging, not being wanted around, if you're not of that religion.  Especially considering many nativities put on government property during the holidays tend to include a sign with the 10 comandments, which as i'm sure you know, includes the command "Thou shalt have no other god before me"


 Huh?

Most Christians I know believe that.

In fact, when I was younger (I was 17 at the time and working at a camp) I was befriended by some British evangelicals, who spent a lot of time with me until one day they told me if I didn't believe in Christ I was destined to burn in hell.

 

Arroree
by Ruby Member on Nov. 19, 2012 at 1:48 PM

Try every sect of Christianity that's ever existed. It even states it in the bible that non-believers will burn in hell.

Quoting candlegal:

Which sect of Christianity pushes believe or burn in hell?   None that I know of.

Quoting Arroree:


Quoting Heather_309:

The things is, there isn't a banner on the nativity scene saying "This represents the birth of Jesus Christ, if you don't believe in him you will burn in hell!"
If it had, that would offend many atheist.


Considering that one of the main tenets of Christianity has always been "believe or die/burn in hell" yes seeing it can feel like you're having that message shoved at you.  In cases such as this it pushes the message that this is the religion supported by our government, which only increases that feeling of not belonging, not being wanted around, if you're not of that religion.  Especially considering many nativities put on government property during the holidays tend to include a sign with the 10 comandments, which as i'm sure you know, includes the command "Thou shalt have no other god before me"



candlegal
by Judy on Nov. 19, 2012 at 1:55 PM

That is actually not true but am running out the door to work right now.

Quoting Arroree:

Try every sect of Christianity that's ever existed. It even states it in the bible that non-believers will burn in hell.

Quoting candlegal:

Which sect of Christianity pushes believe or burn in hell?   None that I know of.

Quoting Arroree:


Quoting Heather_309:

The things is, there isn't a banner on the nativity scene saying "This represents the birth of Jesus Christ, if you don't believe in him you will burn in hell!"
If it had, that would offend many atheist.


Considering that one of the main tenets of Christianity has always been "believe or die/burn in hell" yes seeing it can feel like you're having that message shoved at you.  In cases such as this it pushes the message that this is the religion supported by our government, which only increases that feeling of not belonging, not being wanted around, if you're not of that religion.  Especially considering many nativities put on government property during the holidays tend to include a sign with the 10 comandments, which as i'm sure you know, includes the command "Thou shalt have no other god before me"




Conservative Republicans     

Where Smart Moms Hang Out


LucyMom08
by Gold Member on Nov. 19, 2012 at 2:02 PM

All of them? 

Revelation 21:8 ESV / 63 helpful votes

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

Revelation 20:15 ESV / 32 helpful votes

And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Mark 9:43-48 ESV / 15 helpful votes

And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’

2 Thessalonians 1:9 ESV / 14 helpful votes

 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

Acts 3:23 ESV / 11 helpful votes

And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’

Matthew 13:50 ESV / 11 helpful votes

And throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Quoting candlegal:

Which sect of Christianity pushes believe or burn in hell?   None that I know of.

Quoting Arroree:

 

Quoting Heather_309:

The things is, there isn't a banner on the nativity scene saying "This represents the birth of Jesus Christ, if you don't believe in him you will burn in hell!"
If it had, that would offend many atheist.


Considering that one of the main tenets of Christianity has always been "believe or die/burn in hell" yes seeing it can feel like you're having that message shoved at you.  In cases such as this it pushes the message that this is the religion supported by our government, which only increases that feeling of not belonging, not being wanted around, if you're not of that religion.  Especially considering many nativities put on government property during the holidays tend to include a sign with the 10 comandments, which as i'm sure you know, includes the command "Thou shalt have no other god before me"


 

Bookwormy
by Platinum Member on Nov. 19, 2012 at 2:03 PM
1 mom liked this
PS Why are you turning this into an ageist attack? I'm not a youngster at middle aged, but even if I were, this isn't an age issue.

PPS What do you really know about "traditional" Judaism & Jews? The "traditional" Jews I know are ultra-Orthodox/Chasidic & don't care so much because they live in such closed communities that they aren't exposed virtually at all. & still they felt the need to sue for representation or to get rid of the Christmas tree on government property! So I have to question how traditional are the traditional Jews you know? And how educated are these "traditional" Jews you know in constitutional law?

PPPS When did celebrities & reporters on TV become experts on my culture & faith. And who are you exactly to advise me to speak to my rabbi? Get a grip!


Quoting gammie:

Every signal Jewish person I have ever talk too have always said they don't gave a damn. Even the people on TV like reporters, Celebrities. It seems like a young Jewish people feel like they should not like it, talk to your Rabbi, traditional have never given a damn.




Quoting Bookwormy:

I'm a Jew. Its old, sharp, & grating like cheese. I care. I support my 1st Amendment right freedom from government establishment of religion. I give a darn.






Quoting gammie:

Will we have Jewish people in the family and that is what the say.








Quoting LucyMom08:

 You have got to be kidding...





Quoting gammie:





Like is said you go after this and than you go after something else. Why can't we just respect each other. Christmas trees, lights, getting gifts and yes even seeing a nativity has brought a lot of smiles to kids and adults. Why now?





We all know that lights, trees, gifts and a decoration are not part of the bible stories but they bring happiness. All the Jewish people that have had to put up with this don't give a damn. So why do un-religous people care so much?





 





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viv212
by Gold Member on Nov. 19, 2012 at 2:05 PM
I don't know about that. What if there were Pagan displays or even Satanic displays on government property for their holidays? I don't think many Christians would be okay with that. Shoot, they don't even like "the gay" being paraded around.

Quoting candlegal:

I don't have a problem with other religious displays being put up, just leave ours alone.   Feeling snarky, no, just tired of this year after year.

Quoting Bookwormy:

I will be working on Thanksgiving, Christmas, & New Years; all federal holidays. Not because I'm Jewish & not because of Jesus either. But because I work for a medical model agency & we don't get holidays off.



Feeling snarky? That response was over the top for you Candlegal. I personally took it poorly. Its almost like you took your lord's name in vein. Luckily he isn't my G-d, so it wasn't offensive to me. If you really like the commercialization of your god & your religion to this degree, so be it.



The US Supreme Court has ruled that public & government property must be willing to display any other groups' "stuff" if they want to display Christmas "stuff". Christmas doesn't get favored because its a federal holiday. The Jews, the Pagans, the athiests, etc all get equal display privs with Jesus' made up Dec 25th privs. So you can go & stuff it right with your turkey this week darlin'.





Quoting candlegal:

Does anyone remember that Christmas is a federal holiday?    Don't like it, go to work that day and leave the rest of us alone.   It is sanctioned by the federal government so put up the Christmas decorations on any federal lands they want to.

If it wasn't for Christ, there wouldn't be a Christmas.   As long as it is a federal holiday, the rest of you can suck it up and deal with it.




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