Monday, August 17, 2009

The Self-Described Washington Post

WaPo has a story about a "self-described gypsy," (Goddess, I get sick of this. Would they call someone a "self-described Italian-American"? I've taken the WaPo to task before for referring to "self-described" witches but never "self-described Catholics" or "self-described Hindus") challenging Montgomery County Maryland's laws against fortune telling:

Nick Nefedro didn't need to have his palm read or look to Tarot cards to know that his plan to work as a fortuneteller in Bethesda would fail. His fate was already written: Montgomery County says it is illegal to make money from forecasting the future.

But Nefedro, who says he is a Gypsy, is determined to change that. He has enlisted the American Civil Liberties Union in his year-long fight to overturn the law that calls his livelihood fraudulent. He argues that fortunetelling is part of his heritage and that prohibiting him from working as a fortuneteller amounts to discrimination.

The article notes that recent bans on fortunetelling have been reversed in a number of locations.

In Livingston Parish, La., a ban on soothsaying was found to be unconstitutional in 2008 after a Wiccan minister argued that his passing along messages is the same as a Christian minister purporting to proclaim God's word.

A similar ban in New Iberia, La., and one in Casper, Wyo., have also been overturned in recent years. Ajmel Quereshi, an attorney with the ACLU of Maryland, said it is a legal trend that bodes well for Nefedro.

Particularly egregious is the county's rationale for the law banning fortunetelling: "I don't think it's strange for us to have laws that protect against fraud," said Clifford Royalty, zoning division chief in the Montgomery County attorney's office, adding that "religion has nothing to do with it. He's not made that allegation in the lawsuit."

"The practice is fraudulent," Royalty said, "because no one can forecast the future."
Call me when Montgomery County outlaws stockbrokers, financial advisors, people who tell you how much weight you can lose on their diet, car repair mechanics who tell you that your car will fail if you don't get a certain repair, tutoring services that promise to raise your child's reading level, nutritionists who tell you that you can avoid cancer if you eat as they say, and plumbers who tell you that you need a septic system overhaul if you don't want your toilets to back up. And, quick, someone block WTOP, where every damn morning they tell me that it's not going to rain, again, today.

It's worth clicking through to the article so that you can take the WaPo's online poll concerning the Montgomery County law.

Picture found here.

1 comment:

Chas S. Clifton said...

About thirty years ago, when I was a young Wiccan newspaper reporter, I asked United Press International's Dallas bureau why they identified someone as a "self-described Witch."

Their answer was that otherwise the term was libelous.

Is the WaPo thinking still following the same rut?