For fifty-nine years, residents of the city of Santa Monica, where I grew up, enjoyed the annual Santa Monica Nativity Scenes displayed during the Christmas Season at Palisades Park. After a messy battle with the usual atheist suspects, fighting threats of lawsuits, and untenable compromises,the city finally banned all public seasonable displays, leaving us all poorer for it.
Rabbi Michael Gotlieb in the LA Times:
As a Jew and a rabbi, my speaking out in support of Christians who wish to display a Nativity scene on public land can potentially carry more weight than a priest or minister speaking out. The reason is simple: It’s not my religious narrative. More important, faithful Christians do not threaten me. If anything, I’m inspired by them. By definition, different people from different faiths view God and religion differently.
In the meantime, Santa Monica, where I live and serve a congregation, is less festive, bright and accepting this Christmas season. And given my city’s current municipal policy — one that forbids the use of public land for any outward religious expression, even for something as non-threatening and temporary as a Nativity scene — I suspect it will remain that way for a long time. Sadly, we are all — Jew, Christian and, yes, atheist — poorer for it.
Thanks to a loophole in the ordinace, and a partnership between Metro Calvary Chapel in Santa Monica and a fellowship of Christians from Orange County, this living display was performed at Santa Monica Mall on December 16, 2012.
Enjoy the spirit of Christmas: