published Saturday, October 9th, 2010

Future fuzzy for East Ridge law

by Adam Crisp

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of an East Ridge psychic who claims a city ordinance banning all for-profit fortune telling violates her right to free speech.

“All I want to do is practice my trade of spiritual counselor,” Candice Wohlfeil, a tarot card reader who offered fortunes at the East Ridge Flea Market, said in a statement. “The government is not allowed to dictate what I can and can’t say and I look forward to this being resolved so that I can get back to helping people.”

  • photo
    Candice Wohlfeil is seen Friday, Oct. 8, 2010 in East Ridge, Tenn. where her fortunetelling business business was forced to close. Wohlfeil has filed a federal lawsuit challenging a local ban on fortunetelling. Wohlfeil said she is a ``spiritualist'' and went to the American Civil Liberties Union to protect her constitutional right to free speech. (AP Photo/ Bill Poovey)

The lawsuit was filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Chattanooga, and Curtis Collier, chief judge of the court, issued an injunction to halt enforcement of the law immediately, court filings show. Wohlfeil can go back to predicting the future, but now she wants the court to strike down the ordinance for good.

East Ridge Mayor Mike Steele said he thought Wohlfeil and the city were working toward a solution to her complaints and was surprised by Friday’s legal action.

“She came before the [city] council and asked us to look at the ordinance,” Steele said. “I hoped we could come to some sort of reasonable solution.”

Wohlfeil said she spoke at the Sept. 9 council meeting and explained why she believed the ordinance was unconstitutional. She said she never heard back from the city and contacted the ACLU for help.

“The First Amendment precludes the government from declaring which ideas are acceptable or not,” said ACLU-TN Cooperating Attorney Donna Roberts, of Stites and Harbison, a Nashville law firm. “Our client has the right to make predictions, whether for fun or profit, without the government discriminating against the content of her speech.”

Roberts filed a similar suit in Dickson, Tenn., in 2003. That suit was successful and the city’s law was struck down.

It’s not clear when East Ridge passed the ordinance, but in 1996 the city hosted a national convention of psychics and tarot card readers. For the last couple years, the city has been on a quest to shed businesses it deems unsavory, including check-cashing operations, pawn shops and used-car lots.

about Adam Crisp...

Adam Crisp covers education issues for the Times Free Press. He joined the paper's staff in 2007 and initially covered crime, public safety, courts and general assignment topics. Prior to Chattanooga, Crisp was a crime reporter at the Savannah Morning News and has been a reporter and editor at community newspapers in southeast Georgia. In college, he led his student paper to a first-place general excellence award from the Georgia College Press Association. He earned ...

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Hardrock said...

Isn't it amazing that Mike Steele always thinks something is being done, when in fact it isn't. If you believe anything he says then you haven't followed the happenings in East Ridge. And the current council isn't far behind him in getting things done or telling the truth. This is how this council and mayor work. Listen as though you care, then ignore the problem and maybe it will go away. If not we have a high priced lawyer to spend more of your money on lawsuits that could have been avoided by a little diligence.

October 9, 2010 at 8:38 a.m.
chattyjill said...

this is obviously motivated by a widely held fear by christians of all things not christian.

October 9, 2010 at 10:41 a.m.
DEB said...

What will God do? What does He think?

And I will cut off witchcrafts out of thine hand; and thou shalt have no more soothsayers: Thy graven images also will I cut off, and thy standing images out of the midst of thee; and thou shalt no more worship the work of thine hands. Holy Bible, Micah 5:12,13

And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying:....But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour. And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers... Acts 16.

October 9, 2010 at 5:18 p.m.
fedupwithjunk said...

and again more ways the government is trying to fully make this a communistic country!!!

October 9, 2010 at 6:13 p.m.
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