CLARKSVILLE, TN (CLARKSVILLE NOW) — In a law few, if any, knew existed, it turns out that fortune tellers and tarot card readers in Clarksville are held to strict standards in higher education, physical health and morality. They are also required to run for a city council which does not exist.
Councilwoman Trisha Butler came across Divination Ordinance Chapter 11 while reading the city code and immediately saw that it needed to be repealed. She made the proposal at Thursday’s council meeting.
“I wanted to make sure no one could come and take it off and start using it,” Butler told Clarksville Now.
The law, which appears to have been created in 1986, covers an assortment of business practices, including “fortune-telling or practicing fortune-telling, spiritualism, palmistry, phrenology, card-reading, tattooing or parlors. tattoo, or any similar business or profession”.
Part of the ordinance is already irrelevant: the state of Tennessee has regulated tattoo and body piercing studios since at least 2014.
According to city code, anyone providing the listed services is required to:
- Be a citizen of the United States “of good character”.
- Provide five years of residence history with two references for each residence.
- Provide a clean physical health bill from a Montgomery County physician.
- Be a resident of Tennessee for 10 years and a resident of Clarksville for two years.
- Hold a college or university degree.
Proof of compliance with all these requirements must be submitted to a municipal council which does not exist.
Butler said City Attorney Lance Baker agreed that several parts of Chapter 11 were unconstitutional. In a 2004 U.S. District Court ruling, the city of Dickson was forced to repeal a similar law.
In Clarksville, it seems the law has never been enforced, at least to anyone’s memory. One of the non-existent council members, in fact, is the “town health officer”. The city does not have a health worker.
“It’s not something we did,” Butler said. “No one knew (the law) existed.”
The law targeted certain companies
Butler said getting rid of the law was important to protect the many business owners who have operated in the city for years.
One, Samantha Mowrey, owner of Nine Worlds Healing, said she too had never heard of the law.
“It sounds really weird. I’ve never heard of it and never had a problem,” Mowrey told Clarksville Now.
After reading the order, Mowrey said she found it odd that “spiritualism” was part of the settlement. According to the code, spiritualism cannot be practiced within 1,000 feet of a church, which Mowrey found offensive. “Does this mean that Christianity is no longer a spiritual practice?
Mowrey said her main service is trauma-informed massage therapy and that she added divination six years ago to help some clients overcome certain traumas.
The fact that the law combines fortune-telling, tattooing and spiritualism shows a fundamental lack of knowledge, she said.
“It’s very obvious it was meant to separate,” Mowrey said.
Ban on spitting, hitting trees with snowballs
While the Divination Bylaw is the most egregious, Councilman Butler pointed to several laws still in effect in Clarksville that she wants to see removed, citing the 1963 laws as an example:
No spitting: “It is forbidden for anyone to spit or expectorate in the street, the sidewalk or the public place of the city.”
Ban on throwing snowballs at trees: “It is illegal for any person to maliciously throw a rock, snowball or any other missile at or at any vehicle, building, tree or other public or private property.”
No swearing: “No person in the city shall use vulgar, profane or indecent language in any public street or other public place or in any place of business open to public patronage.”
City Council is expected to vote on repealing the Fortune Telling Ordinance on Thursday, August 4 at 6 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, 106 Public Square.