ACLU of Tennessee Challenges Local Ban on Fortune Telling

Affiliate: ACLU of Tennessee
July 24, 2003 12:00 am

ACLU Affiliate
ACLU of Tennessee
Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States


NASHVILLE — The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee today filed a lawsuit on behalf of a woman whose free speech rights are being violated because of a local city ordinance prohibiting fortune telling.

“A person is free to write or sell books saying that the earth is flat or the moon is made of green cheese. Our government may not decide which ideas are right or wrong,” said Barbara Moss, a cooperating attorney for the ACLU of Tennessee. “Our client should be free to make predictions, for fun or profit, without government interference.”

According to ACLU legal papers, Beth Daly, the owner of Curiosity Corner in Dickson, was notified that she could not continue to conduct tarot readings at her shop because the activities violated a city ordinance that prohibits “any person to conduct the business of, solicit for, or ply the trade of fortune teller, clairvoyant, hypnotist, spiritualist, palmist, phrenologist, or other mystic endowed with supernatural powers.”

Last July, Daly opened the Curiosity Corner New Age Shop, where she sells candles, yoga supplies, local artwork, books, and music. Until she was notified about the city ordinance that prohibits fortune telling, Daly was regularly holding tarot readings in her shop.

In January 2003, the ACLU sent city officials a letter notifying them that the ordinance was unconstitutional. In the letter, ACLU Executive Director Hedy Weinberg explained that a number of federal courts have reviewed similar bans and found them to violate the free speech rights of persons who engage in fortune telling. The ACLU asked the city to repeal the ordinance.

According to Weinberg, the City did not respond to the ACLU’s request, and filing the lawsuit was the only way to protect Daly’s free speech rights.

The lawsuit filed in United States District Court, Middle District of Tennessee, asks that the city be enjoined from enforcing the ordinance and that people be allowed to engage in fortune telling.

By completing this form, I agree to receive occasional emails per the terms of the ACLU’s privacy policy.

The latest in Free Speech

ACLU's Vision

The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.

Learn More About Free Speech

Free Speech issue image

Protecting free speech means protecting a free press, the democratic process, diversity of thought, and so much more. The ACLU has worked since 1920 to ensure that freedom of speech is protected for everyone.