Sec. 32-7. Fortunetelling.Now, a local fortuneteller, Nick Nefedro, is suing the county for denying him a business license to open up shop in Bethesda, MD. He is claiming that the county is violating his right to free speech and is discriminating against his gypsy heritage. However, there is nothing in the law that says Nefedro can't predict someone's future - he just can't collect money for doing so.
Every person who shall demand or accept any remuneration or gratuity for forecasting or foretelling or for pretending to forecast or foretell the future by cards, palm reading or any other scheme, practice or device shall be subject to punishment for a class B violation as set forth in section 1-19 of chapter 1 of the County Code; and in any warrant for a violation of the above provisions, it shall be sufficient to allege that the defendant forecast or foretold or pretended to forecast or foretell the future by a certain scheme, practice or device without setting forth the particular scheme, practice or device employed; provided, that this section shall not apply to any benefit performance or part thereof conducted pursuant to section 30-4 of this Code. (Mont. Co. Code 1965, § 16-7; 1983 L.M.C., ch. 22, § 41.)
As for the issue of discrimination against gypsies, Nefedro's lawyer, Edward Amourgis, says
“This legislation, this policy is focused really on the Gypsies,” Amourgis said. “How is what he’s doing different than running a horoscope? Who are they to say that is not fraudulent but my client is?”Good point - both are pure woo. However, you don't pay for horoscopes (unless that's the only reason you're buying a newspaper. Also, horoscopes are not indivualized. If someone were to open up shop that sold you a horoscope especially for you, then that would fall under one of the "schemes" mentioned above and would likewise be illegal.
What does the county think about all this?
Council Members Nancy Floreen and Marc Elrich, who both sit on the economic development committee, said there did not seem to be support for repealing the measure.I think I've developed a new measure of respect for some of my council members. However, Arthur Spitzer, the local legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union, has also weighed in with an incredibly vacuous statement:
“There are a lot more important things for us to worry about,” Floreen said. Elrich said the county should not encourage businesses “that take advantage of people.”
“Many churches say, if you do this you can reach the hereafter, if you don’t you’ll go to hell,” Spitzer said. “If that’s not predicting the future, what is?”How about THAT'S NOT PREDICTING THE FUTURE! It's a form of coercion, and besides, you don't have to pay $25 to get in the door to be told this claptrap. You get it for free.
Nefedro must have confidence in his case, however. I mean, how could he not? He already knows what the outcome will be.