Monday, April 30, 2007

No More Fortune-Telling in Philadelphia

Based on a 30-year-old state law that was recently brought to their attention by police, city officials recently closed down all professional psychics, tarot readers, and astrologers in Philadelphia.

Fortune-telling no longer in the cards in Philly

The law defines fortune-telling in such a vague manner that it could apply to just about anything, from card-reading to motivational speaking. Check out the text:

§ 7104. Fortune telling.

(a) Offense defined.--A person is guilty of a misdemeanor of the third degree if he pretends for gain or lucre, to tell fortunes or predict future events, by cards, tokens, the inspection of the head or hands of any person, or by the age of anyone, or by consulting the movements of the heavenly bodies, or in any other manner, or for gain or lucre, pretends to effect any purpose by spells, charms, necromancy, or incantation, or advises the taking or administering of what are commonly called love powders or potions, or prepares the same to be taken or administered, or publishes by card, circular, sign, newspaper or other means that he can predict future events, or for gain or lucre, pretends to enable anyone to get or to recover stolen property, or to tell where lost property is, or to stop bad luck, or to give good luck, or to put bad luck on a person or animal, or to stop or injure the business or health of a person or shorten his life, or to give success in business, enterprise, speculation, and games of chance, or to win the affection of a person, or to make one person marry another, or to induce a person to make or alter a will, or to tell where money or other property is hidden, or to tell where to dig for treasure, or to make a person to dispose of property in favor of another.

Enforcement of the law hinges on the definition of "pretends." Since I really believe in my magical abilities does that mean I wouldn't fall under this law? I certainly am not "pretending" when I cast a spell. Will the courts have to decide if all the "Green Gospel" preachers in the state really have faith in what they are saying so that they can escape prosecution? Anybody trolling for donations because God wants them to have a secluded retreat in the Bahamas had better watch out.

Honestly, I think it is pretty clear that the law was intended to apply to con artists who exploit the gullible by claiming spiritual powers of one sort or another. The problem is that it was written broadly to try and cover every possible method that such a person could exploit but in fact winds up including all sorts of things that the authors likely never considered. I have a pretty low opinion of phony spiritual workers and it still seems to me that this is a stupid law. Con artists should be covered under existing fraud statutes, whether or not they claim to be psychic.

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