The city of Santa Monica can bar seasonal displays, including a Nativity scene that has appeared in Palisades Park for nearly 60 years, a federal judge ruled Monday. In a closely watched case that has attracted national attention, Judge Audrey B. Collins denied a request from the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee to erect multiple large displays depicting the story of the birth of Jesus in the park overlooking the ocean. The coalition of churches has erected the displays every December since the 1950s. But last year, after requests for display spots exceeded the space allotted, the city held a lottery to allocate spaces. Atheists won 18 of 21 spots. A Jewish group won another. The traditional Nativity story that used to take up 14 displays was crammed into two.Controversy erupted, and as a result, the city decided the lottery would become increasingly costly. Last June, the City Council voted to ban all private unattended displays. "The atheists won," said William Becker, attorney for the Nativity group. He then went on to compare the city to Pontius Pilate, the judge at Jesus' trial, saying: "It's a shame about Christmas. Pontius Pilate was exactly the same kind of administrator."