In the angry eyes of Christians in Santa Monica, Calif., Damon Vix is the atheist who stole Christmas. He is blamed for the city’s decision to ban all private displays in Palisades Park, ending a tradition of 14 Nativity scenes erected by church groups in the park every December for the last 60 years.

The Santa Monica Christmas controversy began several years ago when Vix decided to counter the crèches by posting a sign with a quotation mistakenly attributed to Thomas Jefferson:

“Religions are all alike — founded upon fables and mythologies.”

Other atheists joined Vix to demand space, forcing the city to set up a lottery to divvy up slots in the park. Tensions mounted in the community last December after atheist groups flooded the lottery pool and won most of the available space. In June, frustrated city officials tried to end the holiday war by banning all private displays in the park. Churches fought back with a lawsuit. But last week they lost round one when a federal judge allowed the ban to take effect.

The dueling displays in Santa Monica are the latest example of a trend across the country. Atheists are employing a new strategy to challenge the presence of religion in the public square: Wherever religious messages are allowed in public parks or government buildings, atheist groups increasingly demand equal time and space.

The atheists are being petty, juvenile and, above all, hateful. As far as I know, none of the nativity scenes have ever included banners calling non-Christians stupid or have lampooned the beliefs of others. If they really must have "equal time and space" then, if they were sincerely trying to make a serious political statement in a truly humanist manner, they would ask for the time and space to be at a different time of year when their actions wouldn't offend anyone other than religionists as bigoted and angry as they obviously are.

Alternatively, I have a suggestion for those terrible creche builders. They should claim equal exposure with the pagans. For every Christmas tree and Santa Claus seen on public property in the United States, American Christians should be allowed to build a nativity scene nearby.

Please don't get me wrong. I don't want to outlaw atheism or shut atheists up in the same way they want to shut Christians up. In fact, atheism is a useful thing with benefits for society. It's good that intense young men with poor social skills who can't get laid to save their lives, have interests like atheism and "Star Trek" conventions, to take their mind off their unsatisfied libidos. It's a better option than bromide.

However, there is at least one atheist who has tried to be humanist in his "war on Christmas." In Leesburg, Virginia, a skeletal Santa, crucified on a cross has been legally erected. Its atheistic creator says that it symbolizes the "death of the true meaning of the holidays by greed and commercialism." Of course, he might be taking the piss, but it doesn't matter. Whatever the true intention of the artist it makes the point that he professes it should very well.



  1. Of course, the anti-theists have good reason to fear Nativity scenes since a mere glimpse of the displays causes simpletons, in need of the protection of the anti-theist overlords, to convert to magical thinking.

  2. Let the record show that as far as Joe and I are concerned, these juvenile atheists in Santa Monica really do come off as a bunch of middle class white people looking for an excuse to whine and yell “discrimination!”

  3. By the way, this:

    It’s good that intense young men with poor social skills who can’t get laid to save their lives, have interests like atheism and “Star Trek” conventions, to take their mind off their unsatisfied libidos.

    …could have been written about an atheistic UU pagan man I know. You have spies here in FL, don’t you??

  4. Oy Vey.

    I just don’t see why churches don’t put up nativity scenes ON THEIR OWN PROPERTY. Why get into nasty “Separation of…” fights, when there’s no need to?

    These kind of cases turn secularists/atheists into anti-theists. It’s an “own goal”, as you Brits would say.

    • JCF, I’m with you. I cannot get excited about the the crèche wars and the disputes over “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas”. And the churches sue? How many churches are there in Santa Monica? Let every one of them put up a Nativity scene in the churchyard, and there should be enough to go around to satisfy every Christian in the city who wants to see a crèche.

      Atheists can’t steal Christmas. The true meaning of Christ come to earth is in the heart and how you love people and if you treat them as you would wish to be treated.

    • It’s difficult for me to understand the concept of nativity scenes being erected for propaganda purposes. In England they are regarded as being as innocuous as Christmas trees. Also Christmas in England is so separated from religion that most people see nativity scenes as just decoration and atheists trying to upset this secular, folk Christmas would probably be lynched by non-believers rather than Christians.

  5. Maybe I’m a bit of the odd person out here.

    But I’ll say it again: NOT on public property.

    (Nope, I wouldn’t say it in England. England has an established church.)

    • I don’t understand what public property has to do with the State as in the separation of church and State. Public property in England was traditionally called commonland. It didn’t belong to the State it belonged to the people. Everybody had the right to use it. Perhaps this has made us more tolerant of who can use public property. Certainly we have embraced new cultures and religions by allowing them access to our public space rather than keeping them out.

    • Perhaps many Americans look at it like this: taxpayer dollars support public property such as Palisades Park. Not all taxpayers are Christians. Some are Jews. Some are Buddhists. Some are pagans. Some are atheists. So, since there is a finite amount of land, and ya can’t fit EVERYONE’S holiday displays on this property every time some obscure religion has a holiday, just eliminate them all. This also renders the park property neutral, so all people can enjoy it, not just the Christians whose creches turn up there. Some folks may regard this as the fairest way to deal with the reality of living in a pluralistic society where everyone’s money is paying to maintain this property.

    • No. That doesn’t work, because you only apply it to religion and not other cultural activities. Anyway, it doesn’t answer my question about what it has to do with your constitutional separation of church and state.

    • And a further thought: I suspect (although I could be wrong) that in the minds of many Americans, because the property itself is administered by a government agency (either a county or state or in some cases federal Park Service), this may translate as being the state’s property, not the people’s property. The maintenance crew who go out there and cut the grass and maintain any structures on the property work for that government agency. Thus, since it is maintained by state/govt employees, the church has no business putting their churchy stuff there.

      I keep having to remind folks that the First Amendment protects freedom OF religion, but it doesn’t say anything about freedom FROM religion. 🙂

    • Exactly. Why are church or religious activities different from any other activity if the law of your land does not state that they are when pursued in a public space, which I don’t think it does?

  6. If the Constitution doesn’t ban religious activity on public spaces (and I can’t see how it does) then, if you ban religious activity on public spaces you must ban secular activity on those public spaces. Otherwise there is inconsistency. Anyway, what if religious organisations banned all secular activity on their property?

    • I like the way you think. You need to come over here and give some American atheists an object lesson in First Amendment rights.

      As long as St. Bubba’s Church pays for the proper permits as required by city or county law, they can have whatever events in a public park that they wish to have. Mr. Vix seems to forget this part. City councils and county parks & recreation services really don’t care WHO pays for the permits, as long as the proper legal channels are followed. And given that most churches are tax-exempt, it only seems fair that they should pay a fee for a permit.

      Mr. Vix would have more room to be angry if the City of Santa Monica had used taxpayer money to fund those creches. That’s different.

      But if a private group, like the Orlando Pagan Collective or St. Joseph’s Episcopal or Temple Ohalei Rivka or the New World Celts puts up their own money for the permits, then that’s fine. All of them do have equal access to this land. Vix is just being a whiny brat.