Fight over Santa Monica Nativity displays heads to court today

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A Santa Monica judge was scheduled to hear arguments Monday morning about whether to allow a tableau of Nativity scenes in Palisades Park.

For almost six decades, a collection of Santa Monica’s Christian churches have re-created sprawling, life-sized Nativity scenes of Jesus’ birth in the popular park that overlooks the ocean.

But last year, after requests for display spots exceeded the space allotted, the city held a lottery to allocate slots. Atheists won 18 of 21 spots. A Jewish group won another. The traditional Nativity story that used to spool out over 14 displays was crammed into two.

PHOTOS: Battle over Christmas displays


Controversy erupted, and as a result, the city decided the lottery would become increasingly costly. Last June, the City Council voted to ban all private displays.

In October, Nativity scene proponents filed suit in federal court to allow the traditional Christian displays to continue. Monday’s hearing will examine whether the city should allow Nativity scenes until the outcome of that suit is decided.


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