LOS ANGELES (AP) - The city of Santa Monica has allowed an elaborate nativity scene in its Palisades Park each Christmas for nearly 60 years, but officials are ending the tradition this year after an atheist set up his own non-religious display and caused an uproar.
Now, the churches behind the nativity are suing in federal court and claim the city violated their freedom of speech by stopping the holiday tradition.
A court hearing Monday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles could decide the fate of the Christian tableau for the upcoming season.
The churches want a judge to block the city's ban on private and unattended displays in the park until the case is resolved. The city is asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit entirely.
Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.