Federal Appeals Court Upholds Nativity Scene Ban In California City

| by Sean Kelly
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A federal appeals court ruled on Thursday that a city in California acted without violating the constitutional right to free speech when it banned nativity scene displays in a public park.

City council in Santa Monica voted to ban nativity displays from Palisades Park in 2012. A lawsuit followed, filed by the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee, who argued that the ban violated its right to free speech and “conveyed a message that the city disapproved of Christianity,” according to an Associated Press report.

The original ban resulted from a lottery system created by city leaders that gave out spots for displays to groups that applied. Atheists subsequently won the most spots.

The city ultimately banned winter displays from Palisades Park, citing reasons such as “improving the aesthetics of the park and alleviating administrative burdens on the city.”

Thursday’s ruling, decided by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, upheld the ban.

“We do not doubt that the committee resents the way in which the City curtailed its traditional way of celebrating the Christmas season in Palisades Park, but its grievances do not state a viable claim that the city violated the First Amendment,” Judge Jay Bybee wrote.

Bill Becker, the attorney for the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee, reportedly confirmed that he would not be appealing the ruling.

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Sources: Huffington Post, San Jose Mercury News

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