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Comments & Curiosities:

Of many stories, here’s a few

March 13, 2010|By Peter Buffa

I have a riddle for you. What do tap dancing, stealing second and childbirth all have in common? Timing.

Ask Costa Mesa City Councilwoman Wendy Leece. She knows about timing. For some time, Wendy has wanted to have the motto “In God We Trust” tacked up on the wall of the City Council chambers.

You know the phrase, of course, but did you know it is the official motto of the United States? More on that later. As is always the case when anyone in the government biz suggests something that refers to God in any way, it triggers what the Irish refer to as a merry brawl.

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But Wendy was more than wiling to suffer the slings and arrows of critics — separation of church and state, a slippery slope, etc. — arguing that the motto is not so much about religion as it is about patriotism. She convinced enough of her colleagues and last month the 12 letters that form “In God We Trust” were lined up just right beneath the great seal of Costa Mesa, hammered home and buffed up nice and bright.

But here is where Wendy’s impeccable sense of timing comes in. After all the push me/pull you and back-and-forth about “violates church and state; no, it doesn’t, yes, it does, doesn’t, does…” just this week, the 9th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals in San Francisco made a startling decision.

The three-judge panel overturned their own 2002 ruling that sided with atheist Michael Newdow’s claim that “One Nation Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance violates the separation of church and state. And that’s not all, thank you. The deciders in black said their decision also applies to the four words printed on every U.S. bank note and coin — “In God We Trust.” Say thank you, Wendy.

It isn’t just the about face that’s surprising. It’s that it should come from the 9th Circuit court. Do you remember Phil Spector’s trial? Do you remember his behavior, and even more scary, his hair? The 9th Circuit is the Phil Spector of courts. Over the years they have rendered one baffling decision after another, and baffling is being kind.

Year after the year the 9th Circuit holds the record for reversals by the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2007, the Supremes reviewed 22 decisions from the 9th Circuit and reversed or vacated 19 of them. As batting averages go, that’s not good.

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