Baby Jesus and his nativity crew will take this Christmas off in Santa Monica, Calif., after a judge ruled the city didn’t overstep in barring the exhibit after 60 years of displays.
Local churches and atheists had sparred before over the annual exhibit, staged in a public park in the affluent beachfront town. The park featured 21 booths for holiday-themed installations, and for decades the nativity scene claimed 14 of them—until an atheist coalition formed and managed to wrangle 18 of the 21 spots for various secular displays in 2011.
Vandalism ensued, and the city essentially shut down the displays this year.
The group behind the nativity filed suit, but a judge has rejected its arguments, saying the displays were banned not because of religious content but because they drained city resources. A lawyer for the group decried the decision as an affront to Christians, comparing Santa Monica to Pontius Pilate, the Roman who authorized Jesus’ crucifixion.
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