Churches in Santa Monica, Calif., are banding together to circumvent a ban on permanent Nativity displays in a local public park, organizing themselves to stage temporary Nativity scenes instead.
A different church will stage a live Nativity scene until Dec. 23 in an effort to keep the longstanding Christmas tradition alive, CBS Los Angeles reports.
A series of large Nativity scenes had been displayed in the city's Palisades Park for decades, until a bitter debate triggered municipal action.
The controversy began when atheist Damon Vix first put up a booth three years ago, hanging a sign quoting Thomas Jefferson: "Religions are all alike -- founded on fables and mythologies," according to the Associated Press.
The next year, Vix recruited others, and the city granted half the spaces to atheist displays. Last December, atheists groups were able to snag the vast majority of the display sites.
The Santa Monica City Council then banned all private, unattended displays at the park, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The final blow for the religious scenes came in November, when a federal judge ruled against forcing Santa Monica to allow the religious displays in a city park, NBC Los Angeles reports.
"We want to have a positive effect here in the community, because the Nativity scenes have been a positive thing for the whole community, anyway, and we want to keep it that way," Pastor Keith Magee of Trinity Baptist Church told the station.
Besides the living Biblical tableaus, some churches have moved their displays to a section of commercial property donated by a local business.
"We are deeply grateful for the use of this new site to allow all of Santa Monica's distinctive Christmas Story to continue spreading the message of joy, hope, and peace found in the Christ child's birth to residents and visitors," Jameson told the Christian Post.