What happens when a local government allows groups to put up holiday displays on public property? They can’t legally favor one group over another, so they have to be fair about doling out spaces.
In Santa Monica, California, 21 display places were up for grabs and a lottery determined who’d get the spaces.
Atheists won 18 of the spots. (Though they’re only using three of them.)
Christians won 2.
Jews won 1.
The Nativity story that once took 14 displays to tell — from the Annunciation, continuing to the manger in Bethlehem and onto infant Jesus’ journey to Egypt and back to Nazareth — had to be abridged to three and crammed into two plots.
Now, people walking down the sidewalk pass scenes of the Annunciation, the creche and tidings of “Peace on Earth.” Then, a few yards away, a poster from American Atheists: “37 Million Americans Know MYTHS When They See Them. What do you see?”
Apparently, a few local Christians don’t understand how lotteries work. You enter. You might win. You might lose. But you can’t sit back and assume no one else will play the game.
“A small group of out-of-town atheists is trying to hijack Santa Monica’s nearly 60-year-long Christmas tradition,” said Hunter Jameson, chairman of the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee, the group that works with more than a dozen churches and civic groups to organize the display.
“Their goal is getting rid of us, and squelching our 1st Amendment rights,” said Jameson, 65, who no longer lives in Santa Monica but still worships at Lighthouse Church of Santa Monica.
Yes, we’re squelching the Christians’ First Amendment rights because we happened to be selected in a lottery in which they had every opportunity to enter…Here’s how it worked: You could apply for up to 9 display spaces. 13 people applied for spots and two of the eventual winners (Joe Naranja and Raymond McNeely) happened to be atheists who put down that they wanted all 9 of their allotted spots.
You would think that with so many churches in the area, Christians would’ve entered a few more times and put down that they wanted more spots… or maybe they just don’t know how probability works. Either way, it’s their own damn fault.
Does anyone really believe they would’ve been perfectly fine if they had won 17 spots while the atheists won only 1? Of course not. As long as we’re in the picture at all, they’re gonna whine about it.
Kudos to atheist Damon Vix for leading the charge and getting atheists entered in the drawing.
By the way, the media is spinning this story like crazy, with headlines reading “Atheist Displays Push Nativity Scenes Out of Santa Monica, California Park” and “Atheist Messages Displace CA Park Nativity Scenes.”
Those headlines are unfair and inaccurate. Don’t let anyone get away with saying we “pushed” or “displaced” Christians out of their spaces. It was never their space to begin with.