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Hearing Set on Move to Block Creche at Downey Civic Center

November 20, 1986

DOWNEY — The American Civil Liberties Union is seeking a court judgment to block Downey from allowing a Nativity scene at the Civic Center on the grounds that it would show preference to one religion in violation of the state Constitution, an ACLU attorney said Wednesday.

A Los Angeles Superior Court hearing has been scheduled for Dec. 12 to decide the issue. The ACLU filed the motion for summary judgment Friday, said ACLU attorney Carol Sobel.

The ACLU obtained a temporary restraining order last year that required Downey to remove a Nativity scene in front of City Hall. The city removed the Nativity scene, and a citizens group called the Downey Christmas Assn. put up a creche in the Civic Center's Memorial Arch area. The area was declared a public park last December.

"There's an unavoidable message when you set a religious message next to City Hall and the police station," Sobel said. "You're setting it there because you want government's endorsement."

City Atty. Carl Newton said the city had not yet received an application from the Christmas Assn. to set up a Nativity scene this year at the Civic Center, but the city would probably support such plans.

"The city is simply making a park area available for this activity," Newton said. "If someone applied to stand in the park and preach, that's a First Amendment right and the city couldn't deny that either."

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