Is there a free speech right to sell tarot card readings?

The ACLU of Tennessee says it is free speech. They have gone to court to fight a Dickson city ordinance that makes it illegal for ‘‘any person to conduct the business of, solicit for, or ply the trade of fortuneteller, clairvoyant, hypnotist, spiritualist, palmist, phrenologist or other mystic endowed with supernatural powers.’’

OTOH one Dickson councilwoman points out that Daly is free to do all the tarot readings she wants, as long as she doesn’t charge for them. ‘‘We do not prohibit them from doing it,’’ Councilwoman Linda Chambers said. ‘‘If they want to do it for free, that’s fine.’’

Chambers thinks the intent of the law was to protect people from fraud. My view is that this is analagous to a thug catching you in a dark alley and saying, “Your money or your life!” That’s not protected free speech.

So, does this law violate freedom of speech or does it appropriately criminalize a con game?

I defy you to adequately explain how tarot card readings are a “con game” while, say, faith healing isn’t. Is Dickson city going to ban Benny Hinn from the local airwaves too?

There goes the St Christopher medal business.

My question is, are the people doing the readings claiming actual powers or that it’s “for entertainment purposes only” If the former, they should be challenged and required to provide proof before charging for their services (in other words, not be able to charge), if the latter, and there’s no deception involved (the “entertainment only” labelling and disclaimers are clear and the readers admit they don’t actually have any powers), then they should be allowed to charge and let the buyer beware.

Phrenologist?? Isn’t there some “science” associated with that? And I didn’t see Feng Shui consultant on that list.

If they’re offering their services as genuine, it’s fraud. If they’re offering them as entertainment, it’s not.

Faith healers are frauds as well but I think the loophole is that they aren’t directly selling their services. The “healing” is nominally free and then a pitch is made to the rest of the crowd for donations. It’s not a direct quid pro quo as with Tarot readers, mediums, etc.

For entertainment pruposes only.
This gets one out of potential fraud charges.

I think that we have the right to give readings. I don’t know about selling them.


Feng Sui is really harder to show as fraudulent because its claims are more aestheitic than tangible. Sure there is rubbish about “chi” and so forth but if they tell that a certain plant stand will increase your energy and you feel like it does it’s hard to show fraud. Also, Feng shui does fulfill its claims in the sense that if they decorate your office and you like the way it looks, they have succeeded. The claims about chi are silly but really not much more than traditional claims about certain colors being “cheery” others being “somber,” etc. It’s all so subjective that it can’t be proven fraudulent.

Good point. I withdraw the analogy to faith healers.

I’m just impressed that their legalese contains an explicit recognition of the existence of “supernatural powers”. I’d have expected them to say “or other mystic professing to possess supernatural powers” or something along those lines.

At the very least, the legislation needs to be dumped as it legitimizes the concept while seeking to restrict it.

Geez, I would thought december would support selling the tarot-card readings, since it’s all about free enterprise, capitalism, and all that fun stuff.

(Is it free speech? Probably about as much as James Van Praagh’s “talk to the dead” bullstuff is)

**Is there a free speech right to sell tarot card readings? **

How can you have “free” and “sell” in the same sentence and still have doubts about the invalidity of your question?

Well, THAT’S a piece of pointless sophistry if I ever saw one.

Would you consider it a free speech issue if legislators tried to stop the printing and sale of newspapers?

Not that I’m equating newspapers with psychics, but the sale of information is not contradictory to the freedom to create and express that information.

I’m sure you knew this already, but if you’re going to take a shot at december, at least put your back into it.

Conservatives have a strong focus on right and wrong. We believe in absolute principles. We are judgmental. We have low tolerance for bull. We particularly despise those who prey on the poor and ignorant. (At least my kind of conservative feels this way. Not all do. Unfortunately, the repulsive Pat Roberson is Exhibit A among the malefactors who prey on the poor and ignorant.)

Orbifold, faith healing is prohibited, if it’s done in the context of practicing medicine without a license. Note that one is free to provide legal advice or medical advice, but it’s prohibited to do so for a fee unless one is licensed.

Thirty years ago I was responsible for giving the California Legislature a cost estimate of every bill involoving workers compensation benefits. In order to find these bills, I reviewed all state legislative actions. One legislator actually introduced a bill to license psychics. It never went anywhere. I’ve long wondered on what basis a licence would be granted. It’s fun to imagine what the licensing exam would look like. E.g., an answer sheet with no questions or hints.

Hypnotist? Since when have hypnotists claimed to have supernatural powers? Many licensed Ph.D. psychologists use hypnosis for therapy. True, there are a lot of unlicensed “hypnotherapy” quacks out there, but that has nothing to do with fortunetellers. Besides, outlawing fortunetelling would be a violation of religious freedom, not free speech. Same amendment, different part. Even if you just outlaw the sale of fortunetelling services rather than the practice, it would be the same as outlawing the sale of bottled water from Lourdes for Catholics.

How about a simple disclaimer:

“Actual fortune may vary.”

One case on point would be Krafchow v. Town of Woodstock, 62 F.Supp.2d 698 , N.D.N.Y., Aug 18, 1999. In that case, a tarot card reader challenged an ordinance which forbade any kind of speech, except campaign political speech, from being held on the Village Green. The Court, however, found that giving tarot readings clearly implicates the person’s First Amendment rights to free speech. The Court stated:

With that in mind, I think the ACLU has a good case to argue that the ordinance violates her rights to free speech.

The ordinance in question here is even broader, and I would imagine it would be struck down. At least that’s what the King of Pentacles told me.

You dont buy a newspaper for the content in it. Thats the reason why its the same price no matter what the news story is. You are paying for the paper and the ink.

What are you paying for when the person tells you your fortune? the air you breathe? Sound vibrations? you are paying for information. The speech is therefore not free and in which case are subject to the laws and restrictions for legal trade and consumerism. The Dickson city officials are acting to protect the people who are gullible enuf to believe this malarkey.

X: You dont buy a newspaper for the content in it. Thats the reason why its the same price no matter what the news story is. You are paying for the paper and the ink.

:confused: So what am I paying for when subscribing to a subscription-only online news service? I don’t think your “you’re allowed to sell the medium but not the content” argument is going to hold up.

december: Conservatives […] have low tolerance for bull.

I’m not sure that’s quite how I’d describe you, december, at least not when the bull is being offered by another conservative.

We particularly despise those who prey on the poor and ignorant.

Good. I’m looking forward to your thread condemning predatory lending practices.

What is this country coming to? Next thing you know they will be banning professional wrestling.