Hattiesburg fortune telling ban +hattiesburg ordinance fines $1,000

Hattiesburg fortune telling ban +hattiesburg ordinance fines $1,000, City responds to fortune-telling suit. Answer: Ban doesn't violate constitutions. The City of Hattiesburg has not violated the U.S. or state constitution by banning fortune telling, according to court documents filed by City Attorney Charles Lawrence.The city's answer was in response to a lawsuit filed by two residents who claim Hattiesburg's ban on fortune telling is illegal censorship as defined by both the U.S. and state constitutions.

 Tommy and Marie Costello filed the suit in U.S. District court in August, seeking unspecified damages to compensate them for the closure of their business, "Marie - Psychic Reader." +hattiesburg ordinance fines $1,000,

"The defendant has a legitimate state interest in regulating the type of business engaged in by the plaintiff and the ordinance adopted by the city was a proper exercise of its authority to protect the health, safety and welfare of the residents of the city," the answer states.

The lawsuit states that the Costellos closed the business for fear of citation after the city issued them a notice of violation on Dec. 29. The notice said fortune telling is illegal in Hattiesburg, according to city ordinance.

The lawsuit asserts that the plaintiffs have suffered "irreparable harm to their reputation" and damages from loss of business and income.

"Plaintiffs have been silenced in their abilities to discuss their skills with members of the public and to offer their professional services to those who may need them," the suit states.

The Costellos also claim that municipal officials have violated their rights to due process under the U.S. and state constitutions, arguing that the ordinance is "impermissibly vague and overbroad."

The answer denies both allegations that the city has violated the U.S. and state constitutions.

In addition to the unspecified damages, the plaintiffs seek a declaration that the city ordinance is illegal prior restraint of free speech as protected by both constitutions.

The Costellos also demand an injunction requiring Hattiesburg to repeal the ordinance.

In a similar case, Meridian's city government voted in August to lift its ban on fortune telling.

The City Council voted 3-1 to rescind an ordinance that had outlawed such businesses.

Council members had upheld the ban several times in the past, but a council member said a warning of legal action by the American Civil Liberties Union prompted the change.

Fortune-telling businesses will be placed under a business zoning classification in Meridian that the city's planning department has said is highly restrictive.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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