Judge plans to deny bid park Xmas displays

Associated Press
FILE - In this Dec. 13, 2011 file photo, a man walks past two of the traditional Nativity scenes along Ocean Avenue at Palisades Park in Santa Monica, Calif. Avowed atheist Damon Vix last year won two-thirds of the booths in the annual, city-sponsored lottery to divvy up spaces in the live-sized Nativity display.  But he only put up one thing: A sign that read "Religions are all alike - founded on fables and mythologies." Vix left the rest of his allotted spaces empty, and in so doing, upended a Christmas tradition that began in Santa Monica nearly 60 years ago. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu, file)
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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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