After Atheists Were Treated Fairly by City Officials, Christians Are Suing to Get Special Privilege

Last year in Santa Monica, California, a lot of people entered a lottery to determine who would get to put up holiday displays in the 21 lots in Palisades Park. As it turned out, a lot of the applicants were atheists. When all was said and done, they won 18 of the 21 spaces. Christians won 2 of the remaining spots and a Jewish person won 1.

These are some of the signs the atheists put up:

(Many of the signs that weren’t protected by chains were later vandalized.)

As you might expect, Christians were pissed off. Their regular display had taken up 14 plots, but they had to cut it and cram it down into only two.

Caught in the middle of the “controversy” were city officials. They were accused of being anti-Christian when, in fact, they were only being fair to everybody. The Christians didn’t own the public space; they were just used to getting special treatment. When other groups indicated they wanted in on the action, the Christians felt their rights were being stripped — in reality, all that was taken away from them was the notion that they were special.

This year, Santa Monica officials decided to do away with the lottery system altogether. They just won’t have any holiday displays at all — it’s better than being accused of being for or against any particular group.

I’m fine with that decision. If Christians want to put up a Nativity Scene, they can do it on private property, in front of their homes or churches. There’s no reason the city needs to give them space to promote the Jesus myth.

But the Christians in this case aren’t taking this lack of privilege lightly. Today, they’ll be in federal court because they’re suing the city for not letting them put up a Nativity Scene:

“It’s a sad, sad commentary on the attitudes of the day that a nearly 60-year-old Christmas tradition is now having to hunt for a home, something like our savior had to hunt for a place to be born because the world was not interested,” said Hunter Jameson, head of the nonprofit Santa Monica Nativity Scene Committee that is suing.

The Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee argues in its lawsuit that atheists have the right to protest, but that freedom doesn’t trump the Christians’ right to free speech.

“If they want to hold an opposing viewpoint about the celebration of Christmas, they’re free to do that — but they can’t interfere with our right to engage in religious speech in a traditional public forum,” said William Becker, attorney for the committee. “Our goal is to preserve the tradition in Santa Monica and to keep Christmas alive.”

Tradition isn’t always right. Becker is suing because he thinks Christians deserve a unique space, paid for by taxpayers, to spread their beliefs — and no other group deserves those same rights. Atheists can protest, in his view, but they shouldn’t get the same opportunity to put up their displays on public property.

Just to reiterate, what did the atheists do? They entered a lottery that Christians could have also entered. They were treated like all the other groups. And that’s not good enough for the Christians who are now suing.

Becker said this on his own website back in October:

“The city surrendered to the angry mob, and in the process sent the world a message that religious freedom and free speech is not worth protecting in Santa Monica. We expect the court to see it for what it is — an unconstitutional act of intolerance toward the Christian faith and a cowardly concession to anti-Christian hatemongers.

There was no intolerance. Or hate. Or anti-Christian sentiments. Or anything unconstitutional.

The Christians never complained when they were the only game in town and had full access to the park. The moment the city said they had to share the space with other groups, the whining began. And now, we’re seeing the Christians tears of false persecution.

Hopefully, the judge will see right through them and respect the separation of church and state. The city officials have every right to cancel a tradition that never should have started in the first place and the constitution is on their side.

(via Atheist Lutheran)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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