LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Los Angeles federal judge has indicated she will deny a bid by churches to force suburban Santa Monica to reopen spaces in a city park to private displays including Christmas Nativity scenes.
U.S. District Court Judge Audrey Collins announced her intent in a tentative ruling given to attorneys in advance of a hearing Monday morning.
An attorney representing a group of Christian churches says he will appeal. The group contends its free-speech rights are being violated.
Christmastime Nativity scenes had been erected in Palisades Park for decades. Last year, atheists overwhelmed the city's auction process for display sites, winning 18 of 21 slots and triggering a bitter dispute.
The city then banned private, unattended displays at the park.
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