The U.S. Court of Appeals yesterday cleared the way for members of the Community for Creative Non-Violence and homeless persons to sleep in tents set up across from the White House to symbolize the lack of shelter for Washington's homeless people.

The three-judge appeals panel ruled that National Park Service regulations "plainly allow the group to sleep in the tents as an intrinsic part of their protest . . . ." Chief Judge Spottswood W. Robinson III and Judges Patricia M. Wald and Harry T. Edwards decided the case for the appeals court.

The government had argued that "camping" in the tents, including sleeping, was unnecessary to the group's political protest. But the appeals court said that simply sleeping in the tents "may express the message that these persons are homeless and so have nowhere else to go."

U.S. District Judge Charles R. Richey ruled in December that the right to sleep in the tents was within the group's constitutional right to free speech, but he delayed the effective date of his decision until the appeals court ruled on the case.

A spokesman for CCNV said late yesterday that 40 to 50 people would eventually be expected to be living in the tents, which have been dubbed "Reaganville."