A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Thursday, November 29, 2012

"War On Xmas" Or Upholding Constitution ?

The picture above shows a citizen walking past a nativity scene in Palisades Park in Santa Monica (California) back in 2010. That won't be happening this year. For the first time since 1953, there won't be a nativity scene (or any other kind of display) in the park for the holiday season -- and some christian groups don't like that at all. They think they have a right to erect a religious display on government property, and they took the city of Santa Monica to court, claiming the city had violated their religious freedom by not allowing them to erect a religious display on city property.

How did this happen? Well, back in 2010 an atheist asked to erect his own display in the park, since the christians had a display up. Knowing they couldn't win a constitutional battle if they prevented it, the city allowed the display. For 2011, the city decided to avoid controversy by dividing display space into 21 separate areas, and they would draw lots from those applying for space to determine who got the space (giving everyone an equal and constitutional chance to win a space).

I think they probably expected christian groups to win most of those spaces, but it didn't work out that way. When the drawing took place, atheist groups won 18 spaces, christian groups won 2 spaces, and a jewish group won one space. While the system was fair, it didn't satisfy the christian groups (who still think they should have a monopoly on government property during the holiday season).

This year the city decided just to avoid all of the controversy and ban all displays in the park, regardless of who wanted to put them up. That's when the christian groups went to court. But that didn't work out too well either. U.S. District Jude Audrey B Collins ruled that the city could not be forced to allow a display in the park. She also ruled that the group's religious freedom had not been violated, since all groups were banned from erecting displays and the group had not been singled out. She said:

To demonstrate a violation, Plaintiff must show that it was intentionally treated differently from others similarly situated and that there is no rational basis for the difference in treatment.


The attorney for the group wanting to erect a nativity scene said the city was wrong because they are supposed to protect citizen's rights, and they didn't do that. He is wrong. What the city did was to act to protect the constitutional rights of ALL the citizens, rather than elevating the rights of one religious group above all others.

Fox News and others are calling this another volley in the war on christmas. It's not. Any citizen of that city can celebrate christmas as they wish, and they can even put up a nativity scene -- as long as they do it on their own property. The Bible does not trump the Constitution, and the day it does will mean the end of freedom in this country. What this really was is a victory for the Constitution -- and for religious freedom (believe it or not).

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