Today’s News: Santa Monica nativity debate in federal court; Galaxy goes for two; Pasadena mulls NFL

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Constitutional Christmas. A debate over the separation of church and state in Santa Monica could come to a head today. A lawyer for a church group that wants to continue erecting Christmas scenes in Palisades Park will ask a federal judge to reverse a city ban on religious displays. The flap began three years ago when an atheist group first applied for a display booth. Then last year, atheist groups inundated the city with applications, winning 18 of the 21 available spaces. In the uproar that followed, city officials decided to do away with displays of any kind in the park. AP

Stolen heritage. One federal official calls it the worst case of vandalism ever seen on public lands in the Eastern Sierra: four ancient petroglyphs have been stolen and others damaged in an area near Bishop known as Volcanic Tableland. The L.A. Times reports the thieves hauled ladders, electric generators and power saws to the remote site, which is a sacred spot for Native Americans. They gouged holes in the rock and cut out slabs that were up to 15 feet off the ground. L.A. Times

Math matters. A new study finds Los Angeles Unified is often assigning relatively inexperienced teachers to lower-performing math students. The study, by the Strategic Data Project, which is affiliated with Harvard University, looked at standardized test scores in LAUSD and three other districts outside the state. L.A. was more likely than the other districts to place newer teachers with less-proficient students, which tended to widen the achievement gap. The study also found that the performance of math teachers typically improved over the first five years and then leveled off. L.A. Times

Twice is nice. The Los Angeles Galaxy are a game away from their second consecutive Major League Soccer championship. The Galaxy actually lost 2-1 to the Seattle Sounders last night. But the semi-final was decided by the number of goals scored by each team during a two-game series. The Galaxy won the first game 3-0. The L.A. team will host the one-game final at the Home Depot Center December 1st against the Houston Dynamo. It will be a rematch of last year’s final won by the Galaxy. ESPN

Temporary home. The crowds are gone and the trash has been swept up following UCLA’S big win over USC at the Rose Bowl. But the Pasadena stadium remains in the spotlight today. The Pasadena City Council will consider whether to allow an NFL team to play in the Rose Bowl while another stadium is being built. Pasadena Star News