Finding the (Biblical) Motivation

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Are laws against fortune-telling really a measure to prevent fraud? Earlier this month I reported on how Philadelphia used a previously unenforced state law to close down psychics, tarot readers, and other diviners in the city. A city official claimed that it was all to stop con-men from ripping off the credulous.

“Most so-called psychics, he said, “are not little old ladies with kerchiefs on their heads” but clever con artists capable of stealing large sums – even life savings – from grieving or otherwise vulnerable people.”

But an off-hand comment in an entirely different part of the country seems to point to a different reason why these sorts of laws are becoming popular again. It seems that Livingston Parish in Louisiana has recently passed its own ordinance against all forms of fortune-telling despite objections from local Pagans.

“Monte Plaisance of Walker, who holds a state church charter for the Hellenistic religion based on ancient Greek briefs, said the ordinance outlaws everything from weather predictions to Christian religious prophecy. Debra Jeffreys, a practicing Wiccan from Kenner, said the ordinance violates the First Amendment, which provides for the freedom to practice religion and freedom of speech.”

At first the council protested that the ordinance was to stop cons, but when interviewed about the possibility of changing their votes, one council member revealed the identity of the (religious) elephant in the room.

“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.'”

In other words, the Bible tells them its wrong and thats why they must legislate this behavior for the rest of us. But while those who practice divination in Livingston Parish for pay are currently stuck with an overly restrictive law, I’m happy to report that Philadelphia seems to have come to its senses regarding fortune telling.

“Philadelphia’s fortune-tellers are reading palms, tea leaves and tarot cards again, one week after the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections ordered them closed. The City Solicitor’s Office said yesterday that it had advised L&I to back off because the state law banning fortune-tellers seemed better suited to fraud prosecution than to regulation.”

Perhaps the city wasn’t liking the idea of the lawsuits the new crack-down was going to generate.

“The city backed off after Mitchell’s attorney, John Raimondi, filed a request last week for a restraining order and preliminary injunction on the ground that the statute could be invoked only in cases of fraud. “What we said is the law is part of the crimes code. You have to prove that someone has been taken advantage of, and you can’t expect L&I to enforce that,” Raimondi said. Before the case even reached a judge, he said, “we got a call Monday afternoon from the City Solicitor’s Office saying they were agreeing with us and advising L&I to discontinue.” Representatives of L&I did not return repeated requests yesterday for comment.”

This means that the psychics in the city who were shut down can once again re-open for business. Something that makes the psychics and their customers happy, including National Review commentator Jason Lee Steorts.

“…there are mysteries which can never be explained, realms of experience inaccessible to the pitiless light of logic and science, strange forces that play above and below this vale of tears. I do not argue that there are such things; I say only that, when one has lost the capacity, in unguarded moments, to feel that there are, life and imagination are the poorer for it.”

Indeed, and that such unguarded moments happen outside a Christian church seem to frustrate some parties into passing un-Constitutional laws and ordinances. One hopes that Philadelphia has ceased regulating where and how one can experience mystery and revelation, and that Livingston Parish will soon learn from their example.