The Maryland Court of Appeals has ruled that a half-century-old Montgomery County law banning commercial fortune telling is unconstitutional. The state court on Thursday filed its ruling, which says the Montgomery ordinance violates the First Amendment protection of freedom of speech. Nick Nefedro, who wants to open a commercial fortune-telling business in Bethesda, filed suit against the county and County Executive Ike Leggett in May 2008. Nefedro said the law violates his free-speech rights.
"Our law doesn't say you can't tell fortunes in Montgomery County, it says you can't be paid to tell fortunes in Montgomery County," said Leggett's spokesman, Patrick Lacefield, defending the county's law, originally enacted in 1951.
But differentiating between fortune telling and fortune telling for cash is "not a meaningful distinction," according to the court of appeals ruling.
"Fortune telling may be pure entertainment, it may give individuals some insight into the future, or it may be hokum," the court said in its ruling. "Fortune tellers may sometimes deceive their customers. We need not, however, pass judgment on [the] validity or value [of fortunetelling]."
Nefedro, a D.C. native and a self-described "gypsy," owns several fortune-telling businesses across the United States. He charges customers for fortune telling, palm reading and other related services, according to court documents. Nefedro, 41, initially lost his battle in December 2008, when a circuit court decision ruled in favor of Montgomery County.
Clifford Royalty, an attorney for Montgomery County, told The Washington Examiner at the time of the Circuit Court ruling that the county law "is narrowly drawn to serve the county's compelling government interest in protecting its citizenry."
SOURCE: Washington Examiner