Chesterfield, VA. – This week, a psychic in Virginia is in federal court disputing what she believes is a violation of her basic First Amendment rights.
Patricia King, who goes by the psychic name “Psychic Sophie”, owns and operates a fortunetelling business in the town center of Chesterfield County. The zoning and licensing regulations in her town are attempting to ban her business and she is fighting this law, stating that it violates her constitutional rights to free exercise of religion, speech and equal protection.
If the city has their way, they will prohibit any fortunetelling and psychic services business like King’s from setting up in strip malls.
Patricia may have a chance at beating this ban, since there have been similar cases in the past where the law has been overturned. For example, earlier this year in Louisiana, a federal judge ruled against the ban on the grounds that the First Amendment does in fact protect businesses like these. Judge Dee Drell struck down the proposed ordinance to outlaw palm reading, fortunetelling, and astrology on the grounds that these services are fraudulent and deceitful.
Although it has never been scientifically proven that psychics and fortunetellers provide authentic information, they have also never been proven to be fraudulent, therefore it would be illegal to ban them from owning and operating a business of this nature. However, since they are being allowed to operate businesses of this type, just as a doctor, lawyer, financial adviser, etc. is allowed, they must also deal with the threat that somebody could sue them for false information, much like one of the aforementioned professions. That is why psychics usually tell their customers that the services they provide are “for entertainment only”- to avoid legal problems.
King doesn’t have to fight to have her business open though, she has to fight to keep her business where it is. City zoning and licensing ordinances outlaw fortunetelling in professional office complexes and strip malls. They are allowed to operate anywhere else in the city though.
Although the First Amendment allows her business to exist, it does not allow a business to be set up in places that local zoning laws have prohibited. A good example would be the fact that a liquor or adult video store cannot be located next to a church or a school.
The Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond has three judges that began hearing King’s case on December 4th. This will be her second time in court, since the first time U.S District Judge John Gibney ruled against her. He stated that the city’s business zoning laws were appropriate and that the nature of her business was “deceptive”.
Even though we have never been able to scientifically prove that psychic powers exist, it is noted that about 1 in 7 Americans have referred to a psychic at some point in their lives, and their services are in high demand.