FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 15, 2011
Hedy Weinberg, ACLU-TN Executive Director, (615) 320-7142
SEVIERVILLE – The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee (ACLU-TN) today filed a case in Federal Court on behalf of a Sevierville woman whose rights to freedom of speech and expression are being violated because of a local zoning ordinance that treats fortune telling as an “adult oriented activity” and severely restricts where psychic businesses can operate.
Rose Williams, a small business owner who provides intuitive psychic readings, fortune telling and other spiritual services, leased a storefront in Sevierville in September of 2010. The City did not permit Williams to engage in her business and threatened to shutter her business if she did so. She continues to pay rent for a leased property which she is unable to use.
“The City of Sevierville has enacted unconstitutional restrictions on certain businesses, such as fortune telling, based on the content of speech. We intend to have this ordinance overturned and our client’s rights to freedom of speech and expression returned,” said ACLU-TN Cooperating Attorney Tim Householder, of Knoxville based Gilreath & Associates.
This is the third local ordinance restricting fortune telling businesses that ACLU-TN has challenged. ACLU has pursued these challenges in the hopes that local government bodies will begin to understand, that except for a few narrow circumstances, they cannot restrict freedom of speech and expression for small businesses owners.
“We hope that all local governments will take a look at their ordinances to make sure that they do not include repressive restrictions that hamper the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech; if there are such laws on the books, we call on county commissions and city councils to repeal them.” said Tricia Herzfeld, ACLU-TN Legal Director.
ACLU-TN is seeking for the unconstitutional restrictions to be overturned, for an injunction prohibiting their enforcement and for Williams to be awarded actual and nominal damages.
In addition to Householder, Williams is represented by Tricia Herzfeld, ACLU-TN Legal Director.
The case, Rose Williams v. City of Sevierville, was filed in the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Tennessee at Knoxville.
A copy of the complaint filed today can be found here.