Fortune-Telling Is Constitutionally Protected Speech

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

United States District Judge for the Western District of Louisiana, Dee Dodson Drell, has upheld the district court finding that an Alexandria, Louisiana, ordinance banning fortune-tellers is unconstitutional. Drell said that banning fortune-telling is a violation of the First Amendment’s right to free speech.

The city of Alexandria argued the business of fortune-telling is a fraud and inherently deceptive.

Rachel Adams, a fortune-teller, sued the city after a police officer issued her a court summons in 2011 for violating the ordinance. She was not surprised by the court’s ruling.

Adams claims she doesn’t charge for her services but accepts “donations.” Are the “donations” accepted prior to the services being performed?

While fortune-telling is certainly speech, can it be classified as fraud? If the clients do not have a reasonable basis to expect that the fortune-teller possesses the ability to predict the future, then the clients are victims of their own stupidity.

In criminal law, fraud is a false representation of a matter of fact that deceives, and since the future is not, yet, a fact, it is impossible for the fortune-teller to misrepresent something that is not a fact.

The “readings” associated with palmistry, astrology, card reading, and fortune-telling, are so vague that they can apply to anyone. The clients themselves, correlate what they’re being told and find “matches” that make the “readings” appear accurate. The good “readers” pick up on subtle clues unknowingly provided by the clients to further the illusion of psychic abilities.

James Randi, Hugh Laurie, and Stephen Fry:

H/T: WaPo, UPI, Town Talk.

33 thoughts on “Fortune-Telling Is Constitutionally Protected Speech”

  1. Thanks Scribe…tell me these are not more important issues than Fortune Telling …. a Turley case involving employees at Area 51 exposed and dying from exposure to toxic chemicals…and a case Vance v. Rumsfeld involving a whistle blowing incident by US citizens on gun running in Iraq which is a far bigger scandal than Fast and Furious…also the US funding the Pakistani military with Amerikan taxpayers dollar who is funding the ISI and using these dollars to put a $5000 bounty on Amerikan boys and girls heads…are our priorities in the wrong place???? or is this the revolving door standard and sin of ommission reporting the same old game to use selective amnesia to cover for the establishment

  2. Fortune-Telling, Religion whats the difference? Oh yeah I know one of them has lots of money and power and the other doesn’t

  3. Oh I never even tried to fit this story about the fallen ceiling into MY OWN belief system. Well, that is to say my “belief system” is a very small program, perhaps a few blips worth. I don’t believe in fortune-telling but if I want to go to someone and do that fun activity, I want the right to do so. I don’t even take my California friend’s word as gospel even though she has now “hit” three times on what was clearly unknown and unknowable (in spite of the fact that when she “hits” the data she collects is often incomprehensible). Something is obviously going on that is hard to understand but it doesn’t cause my belief to go into gear or to head anywhere in particular. What I believe from the narrated incident is: (a) the ceiling in that apartment was not up to code; and (b) I’m damn lucky I wasn’t standing in the apartment when the ceiling fell; and (c) My trip to the Library of Congress was more important that day than it had been on many others.

    I believe, of course, that the no-fortune-tellers law was discriminatory against gypsies, that was its obvious motivation. The Rom are a very interesting crowd — all gypsies I have personally known have been smart, interesting and fun. Uh oh, I feel another story coming on.

    When I was young I worked in an all-night deli in NY (Sarge’s) and one group of my customers was a group that came in maybe once a month, 12 to 16 in their party, always clearly “led” by the “king” who would order for everyone and who typically ordered much more food than they consumed, and who never took home “doggie bags” or tried to moderate the spending. And he liked me a lot and we talked and joked around and I gave them good service and lots of attention and he never once left a single penny for a tip. Nobody else in the restaurant would wait on them but that was fine with me because I enjoyed them and because I was not 100% dependent upon that job for my income, either. (I worked days as a legal secretary in midtown.)

    About two weeks after they had been in the house on a particular spring night, both the owner and I noticed that the “king” had left a leather jacket on a hook in the back. That is, we came to the conclusion that he had left it because (a) nobody else called in and asked for a missing jacket; and (b) it had no i.d. in it so we couldn’t call anybody to say they left their jacket; and (c) its pockets were still stitched so it was pretty close to brand new! (Tags had been removed, though.) She balled up the jacket and said, “Here, take it, you never get a tip off them.”

    At first I felt queasy about it, and then I stopped feeling queasy about it, and then I had a good laugh.

  4. Sometimes when I walk into my local bar, the female bartender says “jeez you look good David, are you going out tonite” Almost invariably I give her a larger tip on that day. …. Does that make her a fortune teller …or a fortune (though small) gatherer.

    Malisha, I have a few experiences unexplainable by rational thought. Coincidence is all the reason possible. Yet when my life has been averted from succumbing to great harm, It is difficult to not look for reason in the dust. But as Piet Hein says.

    When I am weary of toil and endeavor.
    And wish to sleep for ever and ever.
    This thought my longing allays.
    I shall be doing it one of these days.

    Here is my take on the dust and the dirt of not knowing everything.

    Dirt is true, ground up by time.
    All it can do, is become dust.

    I will be one with truth, I will be true as dirt, people may use me as they will, I will remain true, regardless of the intent of the world. Then I will be dust.
    Some house wife in the midwest will get her Swifter out, (just bought at the local wall mart) and remove me from her wall or ceiling, and throw me into her newly approved (by president Repub 2232) open pit coal oil burning waste disposal. And I will be smoke. Wafting, Wafting, and Wafting. Hopefully rising too. I approve of Abel more than Cain.
    I don’t have a clue what is after being Wafting smoke,…and I’m not worried about it. I’m too busy trying to understand things that make sense. I’m about to give up on myself!!! :o) but when I don’t make sense I just move on to other things. There is much to understand before I (involuntarily) Waft away. We are all Wafters eventually,,, Life is so precious, to me this is so obvious, did a whole lot of people sleep through that class? Peace and health or dreams of it, to all the posters here. And everywhere.

    Wow, should I press post or Delete???

  5. Fortune tellers are often gypsies. That group is a hated class and has no defenders. Hitler went after them. When folks say Never Again they leave out the genocide against the gypsies. This is the key to the law in question.

  6. My recollection of the Skokie thing was that the Nazis wanted to march, the court said they could, they planned it out, and then some Jews threatened that they were ready to do violence and go ahead and take the consequences so the Nazis decided to pack it in — but that’s a very old and vague memory, so I can’t vouch for my own information —

  7. @woody voinche:
    This is a blog. Suggest you contact Mr. Turley directly, and offer to pay him for his time if you want a personal legal consult. That is how I am reading your persistent spamming of the same question.

  8. Nancy Reagan used to alter Ronald’s travel plans based upon what her California astrologer said.

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