LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A federal judge in Los Angeles has agreed there's no room for the manger in Santa Monica's oceanfront park, a bitter blow to churches who had sued to keep a 60-year-old nativity tradition alive amidst a bitter dispute with atheists.
U.S. District Judge Audrey Collins rejected a motion from the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee asking her to allow the displays this Christmas season while their freedom of speech lawsuit plays out against the city.
Collins said the city was within its rights to eliminate the exemption that had allowed "winter displays" at Palisades Park because the change affects everyone, from Christians to Jews to atheists, and provides other means of public religious speech.
Last year, atheists overwhelmed the city's auction process for display sites, winning 18 of 21 slots and triggering a bitter dispute.
The city then banned private, unattended displays at the park.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)