Lawsuit challenges Daytona Beach no-fortunetelling law

Tuesday, January 25, 2000

Editor's note: On Feb. 16, 2000, Daytona Beach’s city commission approved ordinance 00-77, repealing the code that previously prohibited palmistry, phrenology and fortunetelling businesses. The planning board subsequently developed zoning and location regulations for the businesses that are now permitted in the city.

A retail store in Daytona Beach, Fla., that wants to offer fortune-telling
services has filed a federal lawsuit, contending that an “archaic” city
ordinance prohibiting such services violates the First Amendment.

On Jan. 4, Cruisin & Co., Inc., a gift and clothing store, applied for a
permit to engage in fortune-telling, palmistry, astrology and related

However, the permit was denied on the basis of a city law which provides that
“no person shall engage in or practice in any manner, within the corporate
limits of the City, the trade or profession of Palmistry, Fortune Telling,
Astrology, Phrenology or any kindred trade or profession, having as its object
the foretelling of happenings of future events.”

The 1955 law violates the First Amendment, says attorney David Wasserman, who
represents Cruisin & Co, Inc. “This law is an unconstitutional content-based
prohibition citywide on palm reading and fortune telling,” he said in a news

The lawsuit filed on Jan. 21 alleges that “the telling of fortunes and the
giving of spiritual advice constitutes [sic] free expression and free religion
protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

The suit also charges that the law is “unconstitutionally vague,”
“substantially overbroad” and “an unlawful prior restraint on protected

In Cruisin & Co, Inc. v. The City of Daytona Beach, the plaintiff
asks a federal court in Orlando to issue an injunction preventing city officials
from enforcing the law.

Other courts have struck down similar ordinances. In Argello v. City of
the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote: “If the citizens of
Lincoln wish to have their fortunes told, or to believe in palm-reading or
phrenology, they are free to do so under our system of government, and to
patronize establishments or 'professionals' who purport to be versed in such
arts. Government is not free to declare certain beliefs — for example, that
someone can see into the future — forbidden. Citizens are at liberty to believe
that the earth is flat, that magic is real, and that some people are

The Daytona Beach city attorney's office declined comment, saying they had
not yet been served with the lawsuit.