A creche stands in Santa Monica, California, where atheists have legally occupied space normally used for Nativity scenes.
- For 60 years, creches occupied 14 of 21 exhibit spaces in a Santa Monica park
- This year, atheists win 18 of the 21 spaces and leave half of the 18 blank
- Church groups contend the atheists have unfairly taken over the display space
Los Angeles (CNN) -- Every Christmas for the past 60 years, Nativity scenes have dominated two blocks of a park on bluffs overlooking the ocean in Santa Monica, California.
The 14 scenes depicting Jesus Christ's birth have long been a popular attraction among area residents and tourists to the southern California city.
This year, however, atheists have taken over most of the two-block stretch, nearly shutting out and angering a group of churches who contend the atheists have organized against the Christians and gamed a city lottery process allocating the holiday exhibit space.
In response, a leader of the atheist group says he's just looking for evenhanded treatment to present his beliefs in a public space -- and goes so far as to say that the city shouldn't even be allowing any religious or even atheist expression in the park.
That's why he and his group have put nothing on half of the park exhibit spaces that they've secured from the city this year.
The atheists are declaring the politically left-leaning seaside town of Santa Monica as their latest battleground in a national movement to assert their rights