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Letter: If Nativities Go, So Should Winter Solstice Sculpture

A letter to the editor from Santa Monica resident Eric Cooper. He argues that Nativity displays should get 14 spots at Palisades Park if a winter solstice statue stays there year-round.


The city attorney has recommended the City Council .  

The city already hosts a permanent "winter display" at Palisades Park called Gestation 3. It’s a circular-shaped sculpture designed so that the sun sets in its center only on the winter solstice. It has a winter solstice plaque marking the return of the life giving sun. 

Winter Solstice is celebrated by atheists and is a religious observance for numerous cultures throughout the world. Most scholars agree that Christ's birth was strategically placed by religious leaders on the calendar Dec. 25 in order to displace the "winter solstice pagan feast of the invincible sun."  

Winter solstice and Christmas celebrations have been competing with each other for 2000 years.    

The city's winter solstice display in Palisades Park stays year-round… yet the City Council wants to ban Jewish and Christian displays that only request 14 days in December.  

A ban will open up the city to expensive lawsuits. The City Council cannot deny the Nativity while at the same time continuing to endorse the winter solstice display paid for in part by the city.  

Furthermore, a vote  to ban "winter displays" will also be a vote to remove the city's winter solstice display, too.  

So, I have an easy solution:  

Allow the winter solstice to stay 12 months a year for the atheists. That’s one display but for 12 months a year. Allow the Christians 12 Nativity scenes but for one month a year. Work something out with the Jewish Community with the Menorah. Then nobody can sue the city, because it will have given everyone  equal treatment.

— Eric Cooper, Santa Monica

This opinion was read by Santa Monica resident Eric Cooper during the Feb. 28 meeting of the Santa Monica City Council. With permission from Cooper, it is being published on Patch as a letter to the editor.

Do you have a solution for the winter displays at Palisades Park? Tell us in the comments, below, or send a letter to the editor at santamonica@patch.com.

John De Vries February 29, 2012 at 05:41 PM
Agreement over "if the solstice display is allowed to stay, so should the nativities"----what is this pandering to a few nonsense? --- let the home owners and tax payers to the city decide ---put it up to a vote! Carole DV
Shane March 02, 2012 at 08:34 AM
Good article. It's typical hypocrisy from fundamental anti-Christian extremists. They violently fight to take down anything but their own "atheist religion" propaganda. I say get rid of the sculpture for 11 months and allow all the beliefs to display for one month. That's my vote.
Gary Kavanagh March 02, 2012 at 07:54 PM
Atheism is first of all not a religion. Secondly using the legal system to maintain separations of church and state is not using violence. However religious extremists have of various varieties and belief systems have shown they are not above actual violence in their tactics. Thirdly, Gestation III is a sculpture which happens to incorporate a design interaction with the sun at winter solstice. It also was intended to symbolize the womb, as the artist's wife was pregnant with their child at the time. This is the work of an artist exploring and using symbolism, but it is it self not a religious symbol necessarily, though perhaps some could interpret it that way. If we were going to remove Gestation III on account of it possibly maybe being construed to have religious meaning, which is frankly pretty debatable, than of course the Saint Monica Statue at the end of Wilshire Blvd., would be subject to removal on the same grounds. I doubt you would find even among the very avidly atheist, many who would go after a landmark like that. I'm not sure what is the best and most fair way to resolve the issue over the winter display controversy, but I think going after every existing landmark and debating if it is religious or not, or to whom, would not be a beneficial outcome for the community.
eric cooper March 03, 2012 at 05:49 PM
I understand what you are saying Gary. However the city was very clear that it wants to ban "winter displays." Clearly Gestation 3 which promotes the Winter Solstice would fall in that category. The artist clearly states his intention that and the sculpture is built so that the sun only sets perfectly through it just on Winter solstice and people come out on that day and gather around the sculpture. The Saint Monica Statue is a tribute to that person but has no winter or holiday association so it doesnt apply to the City's "Winter display" ban and neither does the Totem pole or the 2 cannon etc. You sound very thoughtful and fair minded. The best way to resolve this is to work it out so that the Nativity scenes and Menorah can stay and if someone wants to celebrate something else.... while not attempting to slam the other displays... that would be ideal.


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