Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Fortune-Telling Ban Lifted in Vermont

St Johnsbury, a town in Vermont, has lifted a ban on fortune-telling and various other spiritual practices. The ban was enacted in 1966 and was quite comprehensive.

It had left little to chance, banning practitioners from telling fortunes or attempting 'to reveal future events in the life of another or by means of occult or psychic powers, faculties or forces, clairvoyance, psychometry, spirit-mediumship, prophecy, astrology, palmistry, necromancy, cards, talismans, charms, potions, magnetism or magnetized articles or substances, oriental mysteries or magic of any kind or nature; to undertake or pretend to find or restore lost or stolen money or property, gold or silver or other ore or metal or natural product; or to undertake or pretend to unite, or reunite or to find lovers, husbands, wives, lost relatives or friends.'

I'm of the opinion that laws like this are just plain silly and show that the legislature at the time had nothing better to do. Fraudulent mediums who claim to be able to predict the future for a fee and then fail to do so can be prosecuted under existing fraud statutes, and going after con artists is the only justifiable rationale for a law like this. I can't imagine anyone seriously arguing that tarot card readers are a threat to their community.

It's unclear how this law got on the books in the first place. Maybe somebody needs to do a reading to find out.

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Robert-Joseph said...

It's funny you post these two contradictory blogs back to back. These sorts of laws that limit and restrict spiritual practices are largely due to these skeptics. I'd very much like to see the con-artists done away with, and I'm very happy whenever one is arrested on fraud. Unfortunately the skeptics want to target the entire community. They believe in an atheistic philosophy that says everything we say is untrue, and we're either 1. lying, 2. easily duped, or 3. crazy.

It's very dangerous to give those types of people any kind of power. Maybe we don't have to worry about being burned at the stake, but now we're always one well intentioned law away from being committed for our beliefs or imprisoned for our practices.

To answer your question, a lot of these laws are put on the books to be preemptive and allow them to stop the confidence practices all together. They don't have to wait to catch a confidence artist, they now deter them and can arrest anyone who may turn out to be one. It's the same as the theory of banning guns so people don't commit other crimes with them.

Ananael Qaa said...

So far I've never heard of any similar laws being passed due to the influence of today's skeptic movement. Am I wrong about that? The one in question was passed in 1966 long before Randi's people were on the scene. I'm in agreement with you that their movement shouldn't be meddling in politics, and I'm completely opposed to any legal restrictions on spiritual practices. At one point years ago Randi called for banning astrology columns and I was very opposed to such a move. It never went anywhere.

You will note that my previous entry was "why I leave skeptics alone," not "why I think skeptics are really cool." The points I made about their movement were all positive because I assume most people interested in reading this blog would already have a negative opinion of them. I know that from a personal standpoint I often find them arrogant, annoying, and intolerant, and most other practitioners that I have met do as well. The "skeptics are my friends" comment at the end of the previous post has nothing to do with these personal feelings about the movement, but rather the observation that they help to create an environment in which I can accomplish my goals more easily.

So the point of my comments in the previous article is more like "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" than an indication of any sort of affection. I really dislike con artists who take advantage of people who believe in the reality of spiritual practices and the skeptics have successfully exposed a number of them. It also saves me time - I'm always interested in hearing accounts from magicians and psychics about how their powers work and what their successes have been, if they are phonies their methods are of no use to my own research. Exposing the fakes helps me to weed out useless data.

Anyway, one of the advantages of dealing with nonbelievers is that they rarely have much resistance to magick due to lack of ability. They're easy enough to take care of if the circumstances ever require it. If they ever get to the point where they start successfully passing laws that limit my practices, they will likely become my enemies in short order.