Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Godless Wednesday: Atheists Win Legal Fight Over Nativity Display

Atheists recently won a legal fight in Santa Monica, California about an attempt by Christians to force the display of religious symbols in a public space.
In a case that has drawn national attention, Judge Audrey B. Collins of U.S. District Court in Los Angeles denied a church coalition's request that the court require the city to allow Nativity scenes to be displayed in Palisades Park this year, as it has for nearly 60 years.


Atheist groups praised the judge's ruling as an example of the upholding of the separation of church and state.
"Religion is innately divisive and just doesn't belong in public parks," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis. "There are tax-exempt churches on every other corner. Why isn't that good enough?"
Charles C. Haynes, senior scholar at the First Amendment Center and director of the Newseum's Religious Freedom Education Project in Washington, called Collins' decision "consistent with other rulings."
"It's all or nothing in these cases," he said. "If the government opens up and creates a limited forum, it can't practice viewpoint discrimination. But it can say, well, we're not going to have any.... There has to be a level playing field in the public sphere."
This almost certainly will not be the only case decided this year. It is very curious why religious people feel compelled to display symbols of their religion in public spaces but then get annoyed and dismayed when reminded that everyone has free speech rights, and if the government allows one religious display it has to allow equal access to all religions.

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