Wednesday, February 27, 2013

4th Circuit Upholds Regulation of Fortune Tellers Over 1st Amendment Objections

In Moore-King v. County of Chesterfield, Virginia, (4th Cir., Feb. 26, 2013), the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld against various constitutional challenges a Virginia county's regulation of fortune tellers. The regulations require fortune tellers to obtain a license and business permit, and to obtain a conditional use permit in order to locate their business in specifically zoned areas.  The court held that while the 1st Amendment's free speech clause gives some protection to fortune telling, here the county has merely enacted a generally applicable licensing and regulatory scheme regulating professional speech. The court also rejected the argument that the regulation infringes the free exercise of religion in violation of the 1st Amendment and RLUIPA.  It concluded that the beliefs of the "spiritual counselor" here challenging the regulation are "personal and philosophical choices consistent with a way of life," and are "not deep religious convictions shared by an organized group deserving of constitutional solicitude." Finally the court rejected plaintiff's equal protection challenge to the regulatory scheme. AP reports on the decision. (See prior related posting.)