...if you believe this outcome was decided by a fair and random lottery.
Let's see: Twenty-one spots put up by the city of Santa Monica for "holiday" decorations. Thirteen people applied to decorate them. The rules say that one person cannot win more than nine spots. Two people, both atheists, won eighteen of the twenty-one spots (nine apiece). Of the remaining three, two were won for Christian displays and one for a Jewish display.
The only way I can think of for this to be done actually "by a lottery" would be this: Thirteen names in a hat, one pulled randomly for the first spot. The name pulled is replaced and the process is repeated until and unless some one person's name is pulled nine times, at which point that person's name is not replaced and the odds for the others go to one in twelve. That goes on until and unless a second person maxes out, at which point the odds for the others go to one in eleven for any remaining draws. Drawing takes place twenty-one times. If you can think of a different fair lottery procedure, please share.
Now, I'm a lazy bum. I simply don't have the energy or motivation to calculate, in detail, the astronomically low probability that any given two individuals in that process, done fairly, will get nine slots apiece. Besides, I doubt that my calculator has enough spots for all those zeroes on the screen. (If the drawings were all fair, these are independent probabilities, and since the twenty-one results could come in any order, the combinatorics get a bit complicated.)
A different explanation that, shall we say, springs to mind is that two atheists were deliberately given eighteen of the slots and that the remaining three slots were appointed, perhaps by lottery, among the remaining eleven people after atheists were guaranteed eighteen display spots. (The atheists fill up the displays, when they bother to do a display rather than just leaving them empty, with pontifications about various "myths.") There are other non-random ways it could have been done. For example, some set-aside drawings could have been done among all and only atheists (if there were more than two). Or some non-atheist applicants could have been taken out of the pool for some of the drawings. Lots of complicated ways to do it non-randomly, but the simplest is just simply to hand out eighteen spots to two atheists.
It would be even more interesting if those were the only two atheists applying; the story doesn't say. It would tend to explain why the results weren't made more plausible in appearance by allocating the eighteen among at least a larger number of atheist individuals.
The news story says churches are "crying conspiracy." Well, no, it needn't be a conspiracy. The story doesn't bother to tell us how many people were involved at City Hall in allotting the spots. Maybe it was only one person, and we're being asked to take his word that he gave out the spots by lottery. But, honestly, even if we had to have a "conspiracy" involving several people in the Santa Monica city government, perhaps one to "do the lottery" and another couple to keep a straight face and accept and register the results, this wouldn't strain credulity all that much. Small potatoes compared to what happens in Chicago or Detroit.
One wonders whom they think they're fooling. Do liberals who read this story really believe these eighteen out of twenty-one spots just happened to be awarded to two atheists by chance? Or do they defend that proposition in public while simply not caring whether it's true? Or do they convince themselves that it must be true by something like the following syllogism:
Christian conservatives will believe that this was not the outcome of a fair lottery.
Christian conservatives are bigoted fools, and anything they believe is probably untrue.
This was the outcome of a fair lottery.
Such are the mysteries of the liberal mind.