Are Tarot Card and Fortune Telling Businesses Illegal in Texas?
Neon tarot reading or fortune-telling signs are part of the landscape of Americana. This kind of parlor is often featured in pop culture. There have been hit songs about fortune tellers and dark and mysterious movies and t.v. shows with plotlines advanced by the word of mediums or fortune tellers.
Even Shakespeare couldn't resist the lure of seers. Soothsayers play a big role in his plays Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Julius Ceasar, and others.
It is hard to believe, but fortune telling, tarot reading, and others related to psychic vision are illegal in many places in the United States. For example, in Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Carolina, fortune-telling is flatly prohibited by state law.
The biggest concern with fortune tellers and soothsayers for legal authorities in all instances is fraud.
In 2020 a mother-and-daughter psychic tag team of fraud conned an elderly woman in Florida out of $1.4 million dollars by convincing the woman that her husband was a demon. Cases like this are often called "psychic terrorism" by legal authorities.
Here in Texas, localities may choose to ban fortune-telling outright.
Section 38.02, which is titled "Failure to Identify," states that a person commits an offense if they intentionally or knowingly offer to engage in or engage in fortune telling, astrology, or similar practices for compensation without providing a written disclosure statement.
The relevant provision reads: "A person commits an offense if the person intentionally or knowingly offers to engage in, agrees to engage in, or engages in conduct that is described by Section 2155.073(a), Occupations Code, for compensation without complying with the disclosure requirements of Section 2155.073(b), Occupations Code."
This Occupations Code requires that individuals who offer psychic services for compensation must offer a written disclosure statement that states that the service is for entertainment purposes only, that the results of the service are not guaranteed, and that the service is no substitute for professional advice. Failure to comply is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $4000 and/or up to a year of jail time.
In San Angelo, the city has an ordinance prohibiting fortune-telling for profit within city limits. the ordinance is under Chapter 16, Article II, which regulates the licensing of businesses.
Section 16-29 of the ordinance defines fortune telling as the "practice of professing or pretending to tell fortunes, forecast future events, or reveal secret information, by means of occult powers, psychic abilities, or other similar methods or practices."
Section 16-30 states that it is unlawful for any person to engage in fortune telling for profit within the city without obtaining a license from the city's finance department. The license fee is $100 per year.
Spiritual advisors and fortune tellers have challenged these ordinances. Many of them contend that their spiritual advice is no different than, say, a minister's. The courts have disagreed.
In a 1983 case of Krest v. City of Abilene, a woman convicted of violating the fortune-telling statute challenged the law because it violated her First Amendment right to free speech. The court ultimately upheld the law's constitutionality, ruling that the government had a legitimate interest in protecting the public from fraud and deception.
The court added that the law does not prohibit individuals from expressing their beliefs about the future or engaging in other similar activities for non-commercial purposes. It is important to note that courts in other states, namely California, have sided with psychics in disputes with municipalities because law limiting their profession interferes with their First Amendment rights.
Will courts eventually make fortune-telling laws illegal everywhere? You would need a crystal ball to answer that question. Right now, should you engage a psychic for an answer, it will require a written disclaimer that the answer is for "entertainment purposes only."