Chesterfield’s “Occult Sciences” vs The Spiritual Counselor

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When you use tarot cards are you engaging in an “occult science”, or are you providing “spiritual counseling”? Who gets to make that distinction? Chesterfield County in Virginia thinks that they get to, but a lawsuit by a local tarot card reader is challenging that assumption.

“Sophie King, who said she offers spiritual counseling, filed the lawsuit in the belief that the county’s classification of her business as “engaged in the occupation of occult sciences” is wrong. She also said the business tax and zoning rules that come with the classification are unfair and violate her First Amendment rights. In Chesterfield, businesses considered to be fortune-telling establishments must pay a $300 tax to get a business license, while nightclubs and adult businesses pay only a $100 tax for a license. Fortune-telling businesses must submit five references from the county to the police chief for approval. They are limited to one zoning designation – the same one reserved for adult businesses, scrap yards and pawn shops. And they must get a conditional-use permit for that zoning.”

You can read the full case filing, here. The current zoning regulations are designed for just one thing, to discourage tarot readers, psychics, astrologers, and other practitioners of “occult sciences” from opening up a shop in Chesterfield. That licensing for this classification is more onerous than for a strip club or pawn shop, and relegates them to the “red light” district (not to mention the character references), tells you a bit about the priorities of the county. In an interview with a local NBC affiliate, King says she’ll fight these regulations for as long as it takes.

“This sort of thinking, it’s very middle ages in terms of thinking about what I do … I’m being looked at in a negative way before I’ve even gotten out the starting gate … [I’m willing to fight for] As long as it takes.”

Chesterfield County is another in a long line of towns, cities, and counties who either enforce antiquated laws, or enact new regulations that try to curtail or ban the practice of any divinatory art. In the end, most of these regulations are found to be unconstitutional when challenged in court, but they get passed anyway, hoping no one will risk their time and resources with a legal battle. Any hey, if the discriminatory law or regulation gets struck down, at least they looked good to conservative Christian voters. After all, it’s only taxpayer money they’re spending, so why not go all out?