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Alternative Proposed to Nativity Ban

Under a proposal submitted to the City Council, Santa Monica would revert back to an application system to reserve spots at Palisades Park. Any type of holiday display would be permitted unless it "denigrated" other religions.

Nativity Scene organizers said this week that they've come up with a solution to keep life-sized  dioramas—and other non-religious displays—at in December.

The City Attorney proposed a full-fledged ban earlier this year on "winter displays" in response to protests by some religious leaders upset by a new lottery system used to determine which groups would get to erect displays  along the iconic stretch of coastline.

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Under the proposal submitted by the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee, a nonprofit comprised of local churches and the Santa Monica Police Officers Association, up to 21 applicants could seek one space each in a two-block stretch of Ocean Avenue. 

No sites would be guaranteed in advance and applicants would need to decorate at least 15 percent of their allotted space by Dec. 14 or forfeit it. Applications would be due in July, and if applications exceeded the 21 spaces available, the city would hold a lottery. 

No signs or banners denigrating holiday traditions or religious beliefs would be allowed.

Chairman Hunter Jameson said his committee's proposal, called "Celebrate the Season," would allow celebrations of Christmas, Chanukah, the winter solstice and holidays to continue without confrontation.

Last year was the first time the city held a lottery to allocate the spaces. It resulted in fewer nativity scenes, lots of grass left vacant by winners who didn't decorate their coveted spots, and a few atheist displays, such as one poster that read, "37 Million Americans know MYTHS when they see them ... What myths do you see?"

After the lottery, the Nativity Committee . City Attorney Marsha Jones Moutrie said the First Amendment prohibits the city from picking and choosing which displays to allow.

RELATED: NATIVITY FIGHT GIVES BIRTH TO PETITION DRIVE

The Nativity Committee's proposal was drafted with help from the Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit, public-interest law firm.

The Liberty Counsel said in Jameson's statement that the city "has the legal and constitutional authority to designate a December holiday decoration forum in a park open to private individuals."

It also has the right "to impose reasonable rules as long as participation is allowed in a fair and even-handed manner," said Richard Mast, an attorney with Liberty Counsel.

Jameson said the proposal will be heard by the City Council on May 22.

The full proposal from the Nativity Committee is attached to the right of this article.

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Barrett Meeker May 10, 2012 at 08:48 PM
The link to the full proposal doesn't seem to work.
Jenna Chandler (Editor) May 11, 2012 at 12:41 AM
I can't get the link to work, but the full proposal is at the right of the article. Sorry about that

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