A federal judge has tossed out a Livingston Parish Council ordinance barring all forms of fortune-telling. The ordinance was challenged by local resident Cliff Eakin, a Wiccan who believed the ban violated his religious freedoms.
“A Livingston Parish Council ordinance outlawing fortunetelling and soothsaying is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled Tuesday. A Wiccan minister, Cliff Eakin, sued the parish over the ordinance, asserting inspiration from the divine transmitted by a Wiccan minister should be treated legally the same way as a message from God transmitted to a congregation by a Christian minister. “I would highly recommend that the council not appeal it,” Blayne Honeycutt, the council’s attorney, said of Tuesday’s ruling.”
The Livingston Parish Council, despite warnings from their lawyer telling them they would lose, decided to fight removing the ordinance on religious principle.
“Harrell and councilmen Jimmy McCoy and Eddie Wagner said they have no plans to change their votes. Other council members did not comment on where they stand. ‘I got elected to represent my constituents,’ McCoy said. ‘I am a Christian and I love the Lord, period. We can vote today or next month, my vote won’t change.’”
This case is just the latest in a string of successful legal and political challenges to outdated or religiously biased laws and ordinances banning fortune-telling. As I said when this case first emerged, today’s fortune-tellers and diviners aren’t simply grifters on the make, but a growing assortment of men and women who have a deep religious investment in their trade.
“While banning psychics was once seen as an easy political move to garner an image as a moral crusader fighting fraud (and activities that carry a Biblical injunction), in the last thirty years the business has changed. It isn’t simply a bevy of frauds peddling fake “curses” and a smattering of sweet old ladies making a buck on the side, the business has been steadily infiltrated by modern Pagans, Afro-diasporic faiths (VooDoo, Santeria, etc), and the New Age movement, many of whom see divination work as a spiritual calling. These groups on the whole are more affluent (relatively speaking), more aware of their legal rights (and hence more litigious), and more rooted in their communities than the stereotypical image of the fly-by-night con-man (or woman) who makes a living grifting from the margins.”
Laws explicitly banning psychics and other diviners from plying their trade are outdated and discriminatory, and the growing legal consensus has favored overturning such bans. Religious favoritism masquerading as social concern can no longer be tolerated in a free and multi-religious society. Congratulations to Mr. Eakin for his victory.