Centerville Drops Anti-Fortune-Telling Ordinance

The Wild Hunt is exclusively supported by readers like you. No advertising. No corporate sponsors. Your support helps us pay our writers and editors, as well as cover the bills the keep the lights on. We cover the community because of your generosity. Consider making a one-time donation - or become a monthly sustainer. Every amount helps. Thank you for reading The Wild Hunt!

It looks like a 1985 ordinance banning fortune-telling, spiritualism, and other psychic services in Centerville, Georgia,  has been dropped after Courtney Bibb, the owner of Energy Among Us, filed a lawsuit against the city.

“A small victory for a Centerville store is making a big impact on how the owner views her community. “People just stopping by and saying how proud they are that I’m standing by in what I believe in; It’s astronomical, I can’t explain it. I’m very very gracious and very thankful for all the support I’ve gotten.” –Courtney Bibb/Store Owner Energy Among Us has been providing services ranging from yoga classes to tarot card readings since January of this year. After attention was brought to local officials about the spiritual practices taking place, owner, Courtney Bibb was told to cut it out or else. In response to the warning, Courtney answered back with a lawsuit, ready to fight for her business and her cause … Stated in a letter from her lawyer, Charles Cox, “The city council has agreed to repeal ordinance 85-1, which was enacted back in 1985, and Ms. Bibb is looking forward to continuing business in Centerville.” Without stepping foot in federal court, Courtney was able to achieve her goal, and keep her store’s integrity in tact.”

This lawsuit came after mayor John Harley claimed he was deceived as to the true nature of the business at the grand opening reception he (and other city officials) attended, and the city ordered Bibb stop offering psychic services in exchange for money. Many thought it was suspicious that the letter came shortly before a planned Mind, Body, and Spirit Expo that was being organized by Bibb, raising questions of religious bias, and locals quickly mobilized on her behalf.

The agreement between Bibb and the city will be formalized on May 4th, though city officials still insist that this case had nothing to do with religion or Bibb’s freedom of speech.

Centerville officials met Monday for an executive session, where the settlement was hashed out. Centerville City Administrator Patrick Eidson said the city will formalize its agreement with Bibb at the May 4 council meeting. “From our perspective it was always a business license and ordinance compliance issue,” Eidson said. “She’s now going to comply with rules for any other businesses in Centerville.”

You can view the lawsuit, here. You can view a copy of the original cease and desist letter to Bibb, here. Read a particularly enjoyable and blistering column against the ordinance, here.

It all boils down to this, whether you think fortune-telling and other spiritual services are legitimate, or simply a fraud to fleece the gullible, laws that specifically target these services have been found to be unconstitutional on a regular and consistent basis. If you want to crack down on fraud, pass laws concerning fraud that apply to all business ventures, but there is a big difference between outlawing deceptive business practices, and outlawing the cover some con-artists use. Banning psychics is easy because they usually don’t have the money to challenge laws, and often thrive on the margins of society, but as I’ve pointed out before, that is quickly changing.

“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. As such, laws against all forms of divination are being met with fierce resistance, and are being overturned or having enforcement dropped due to social and legal pressures.”

Banning psychics makes about as much legal sense as banning Realtors because some con-artists engage in real-estate scams. We are quickly approaching the day were such laws will be completely wiped out, or made unenforceable, and if places like Cook County, Illinois persist in making new ordinances against psychic services, we may even get a SCOTUS decision someday to reinforce all the lower court decisions striking down these discriminatory laws.

Finally, congratulations to Courtney Bibb, Energy Among Us, and all her supporters!