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Santa Monica Nativity display goes on -- on private property

December 03, 2012|By Karin Klein
  • The Santa Monica Nativity scene as displayed in 2011.
The Santa Monica Nativity scene as displayed in 2011. (Frederic J. Brown / AFP/Getty…)

The Santa Monica Nativity scene will go on display after all -- on private property, where it belongs.

The holiday display in a city park had become a divisive issue in Santa Monica, which had instituted a lottery for holiday displays -- spots that were mostly won by atheist groups. Faced with the requirement of either fairly allowing all religious beliefs to have space or none, the city opted for the latter. Court challenges to that decision lost.

I'd take it one step further. Public parks serve many functions, but among them shouldn't be unattended displays for private groups. The park belongs to all of the public for recreation. If exceptions are to be made for religious or anti-religious displays during the holiday season, why not allow Planned Parenthood and antiabortion groups to set up their own displays at other times of the year?

Holiday displays can be delightful, but it's not as though there aren't ample places for such messages, such as the lawns outside churches and the frontyard of anyone who wishes to place one.

And that's what happened in this case: the Nativity scene has been offered a prime spot on private land, where there's no need for lotteries and no need to take up public space for a private group's message.

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