Nativity Fight Gives Birth to Petition Drive

Poll: Should a majority of Palisades Park be reserved for Nativities during Christmas?

There's a poster likening Jesus to Santa Claus in the space where for most of the past 57 years only life-size depictions of Jesus' birth stood every Christmas.

"37 Million Americans know MYTHS when they see them ... What myths do you see?" the sign reads.

But now atheists might need some divine intervention.

Upset that the Christian displays lost their 14 spaces at Palisades Park this year, the Santa Monica Nativity Committee is asking city officials “take all needed steps” to assure the 14 Nativity scenes are allowed on Ocean Avenue in 2012 and forever after.

For the first time, the city held a lottery this year to determine assignments at the park after it received an unusually high number of requests from people outside the committee for holiday displays to be set-up the same time in roughly the same place.

The committee drew only three spots for its Nativities, instead of the usual 14, while Joe Naranja, of Christmas Spirit, and Raymond McNeely, unaffiliated, got up to 18 parcels. Many of those parcels are currently vacant grass.

"The Nativity Scenes Committee has no objection to displays anyone else puts up under the rules that disagree with ours ... That is the American way of free speech and fair play," said Nativity Scenes Committee Chairman Hunter Jameson. "The full Nativity Scenes only need one of the two blocks. There is plenty of room for the displays the atheists have put up this year, the Hanukkah menorah, and all 14 Nativity Scenes plus room left over."


The Santa Monica Nativity Committee's petition says the Nativities' messages "of love, hope, and peace [have] attracted thousands of Santa Monicans and visitors, creating a sense of community and causing Santa Monica to be known as “the City of the Christmas Story."

Weigh in by taking the Patch poll below:

Melody C. December 13, 2011 at 04:20 AM
In this "lottery" there should be a limit of how many spaces one entity can have. " The "atheists" that won 9 spots seem to have their agenda. However, as a resident of Santa Monica for over 15 years I like to see multiple religions or non-religions portrayed on Ocean Ave. There should be a limit of how many spots can be awarded per year. 2 being maximum per entity or group.
Patricia Peterson December 13, 2011 at 04:58 AM
The nativity scenes represent a historical event that the citizens of Santa Monica have supported for 57 years. It seems that the Christmas season is the logical time to display them and 14 groups put on 14 separate booths that tell the story of the birth of Jesus according to the Bible. Two booths could not tell such a story. There is plenty of time 11 other months of the year for non-religions (if there is such a thing) to mount a display for their cause.
Melody C. December 13, 2011 at 05:05 AM
I agree with Patricia 100% I'm not a religious person. Anyone that knows me knows that. I feel that is a personal decision. The people closest to me believe with all their heart in god and religion. I was raised to myself. More like it was crammed down my throat as a child. I want my children and others to have their own choice in religion. My feelings are just that.... Mine. I'm not going to push them on anyone let alone my children. When they are old enough they will decide for themselves.
carole devries December 13, 2011 at 07:15 AM
What happens in Santa Monica should be decided by those who live in the city - voting, tax payers......absurd that people from other cities think they can come and alter traditions here ........mess with your own cities......what kind of weak-willed do we have running the show here????
Mike December 13, 2011 at 02:51 PM
SHAME ON SANTA MONICA. Christians, Jews, non-denominational, non-believers, should all be able to celebrate their holidays. The Christmas Nativity is a tradition, and should remain as such. I'd like to state that this is not a "statement" or political stance, it is a celebration of Christianity, just like having a Menorah, or another religious symbol of faith. I do agree that there are 11 months left in the year for those that want to "beat out" christians during the Christmas season to create their "celebration" piece. Santa Monica needs to buy a clue and restore a long lived city tradition, and afford opportunity to other beliefs to do the same as Christians do this time of the year. IT can't be that hard.
eric cooper December 13, 2011 at 04:40 PM
Having a display that celebrates your faith and your holiday is a beautiful thing. But the atheists aren't celebrating anything. What they are doing is trying to challenge and argue whether God is a myth. This is not the time nor is the park the place for that debate. It's a very classless act. Very tacky. The City should be ashamed of itself. Santa Monica preaches tolerance but when the Nativity booths go up the City allows completely non- tolerant behavior. So much for tolerance and coexist that the City claims when it doesn't involve Christians.
Melody C. December 13, 2011 at 05:12 PM
How would it make them feel if I took my front yard Nativity scene, (Baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, 3 wise men, Shepherd, and animals) put it on the roof of my car, sat in front of their house or place of business and sang Christmas songs? I'm not forcing my beliefs on them, so why are they forcing theirs on our City? I'm hoping that everyone who is upset or disappointed over this emails the City of Santa Monica Council at council@smgov.net to let them know it.
Thom Gasper December 13, 2011 at 06:55 PM
When someone celebrates his/her birthday at a restaurant, our society is still respectful enough to clap (or even sing along). No one has the audacity to make them stop because it's not their own birthday. While I am not Jewish, I feel great for Jews when I pass by the large Menorah on Broadway/Lincoln each year during the time of Hanukah. I am sad that some people with differering views can't just ignore for a few days the "singing"/visual celebration that so many others enjoy at Palisades Park each Christmas. It is a sad development for Santa Monica.
Carl Hamilton December 13, 2011 at 08:26 PM
100% agree Eric. If the atheists don't like the nativity scenes, then they should stay away from the park...not try and rain on the believers' parade...to us Christians the nativity is a traditional symbol of the holiday season...why does that make other people angry?
Carl Hamilton December 13, 2011 at 08:27 PM
Amen Thom.
Claudia Schafer December 14, 2011 at 03:25 AM
It is beyond unfortunate that a perfect opportunity to have displays representing the many cultural traditions in our country, in this time of presumed Good Will, has been sabotaged by the SM City Council. The idea that two entities could "win" 14 of 18 slots in a fair lottery is so far afield from mathematical probabilities that the whole thing reeks of it having been rigged. Great job, City Council - now you've got the whole city divided against itself. Your mothers would be so proud.
Kevmo December 14, 2011 at 06:21 PM
Shame on the City Council of Saint Monica, AKA Santa Monica, once again you've ruined a long standing tradition in Santa Monica, with your meddling... God bless you and Merry Christmas!
Eric W December 20, 2011 at 02:20 AM
Despite the comments above, as a Santa Monica resident, I'd rather see the whole thing gone. It's not the 1950's anymore. I don't have any further need to see "celebrations" of anything. I really prefer to not have church events on state property. Why these displays should go away: I know about and don't support Catholic policies on many things - don't need to be reminded. I heard that Santa Claus has some shopping issues - don't have money to burn on presents. The Atheist’s signs are not very entertaining. And driving a car and creating another car trip to look at the exhibits doesn't seem like a very good thing at all. Lets just have grass and a view of the ocean. Oh yeah, that's what the non-christian lottery winners seem to be doing, isn't it?
Claudia Schafer December 20, 2011 at 03:34 AM
Oh for crying out loud - the city is named after a Catholic Saint - and her statue stands all year round welcoming all who pass by the spot where Wilshire dead ends at Palisades Park. So if your goal is to distance yourself from all things Catholic - you might have to move. Additionally - I'm pretty sure that the vast majority of car trips to SM are made by people who want to go to the large body of water we call the Pacific Ocean, so I rather doubt the nativity scenes are leaving much of a carbon footprint. However - in the off chance that you are correct about people making trips here just to see the displays...let's remember that those people would likely also spend money while they're here. And oops - if they stop coming - that could translate to a lot of lost sales tax revenue. Hey - City Council - did you think about that when you created this completely screwed up situation? Then again - that last question assumes that you actually thought about anything except using the First Amendment to justify that shameful sham you called a "lottery".
John Stevenson June 15, 2012 at 10:46 PM
Christians having to put up with Atheist booths is what it feels like to be Athiest and having to put up with Christian booths. I've been told this by many Christians, so I'll say it right back... "If you don't like it, don't look at it."


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