News From Around The Blogosphere 6.17.10

June 17, 2010

1. Montgomery County, Maryland rejects ban on paid fortune-telling services – Few people are more passionate about protecting the First Amendment right to Free Speech than I am but there’s nothing in the first amendment that protects fraud. A court ruled that alleged “psychic” Nick Nefedro can continue to sell his services as a fortune-teller without having any responsibility to prove his claims. Now I have no issue with people saying they have psychic powers when they don’t. That’s free speech. But the moment they start charging people for their bogus services, then it ceases being a free speech issue and becomes a fraud issue. There is a very clear line here, and it’s the moment money exchanges hands for alleged services being rendered.

August Brunsman

Greg Epstein

2. Are two atheists two too many? – Recently, White House officials met with atheist representatives from a secular organization for the second time ever (the first time was several months ago). This time it was just two representatives from the Secular Student Alliance, August Brunsman and Greg Epstein. Like before, it wasn’t just White House staff meeting with atheists alone but the atheists were simply included among 110 other people invited to discuss interfaith issues. Apparently though, according to Bill Bumpas of the Religious Right propaganda site OneNewsNow, that’s two atheists too many and despite there being 110 other people being invited, this was all part of a giant evil conspiracy to athe-ize America.

I will concede though that there was one atheist too many as I don’t much care for Epstein’s views.

3. Another piece of athvertising, another controversy – The Freedom From Religion Foundation actually showed some restraint for once in Chicago and posted an ad that no reasonable person could possibly find offensive. The slogan on the ad was simply:  “SLEEP IN ON SUNDAYS.” Surely no one could be offended by that, right? Wrong. Apparently, Rev. Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina Roman Catholic Church, is having none of that. And wow, if he’s this upset about such a benign ad, I can only imagine how enraged he was when he learned his Church’s highest ranking officials protected child rapists. Right? Right?


Man fights for right to defraud others

August 18, 2009

Psychic lies cost moneyNick Nefedro is fighting a county law banning fortune-telling because he says it’s discriminating against his Gypsy heritage. What will they come up with next?

Like his father, who had been a fortuneteller in the District in the 1980s, Nefedro turned the practice into a business. With family members, he has owned and operated a half-dozen fortunetelling businesses in the Los Angeles area and in Key West, Fla.

Well, you see, there’s you problem, Nick. Once you start charging people money, it’s no longer your heritage but your BUSINESS. And businesses have to comply with proper business standards and practices. You can do all the fortune-telling you want free of charge whenever you want. But the moment you start charging money for it is the moment your rights end and the rights of others to be protected from fraud begin.

Nefedro found a location to rent about two years ago and applied for a business license. He was denied. In May 2008, he filed a lawsuit, which he lost. Now, with the ACLU on board, he wants to continue the fight.

I’m actually really surprised the ACLU would take this case. It seems like they’ve got a pretty flimsy case. Of course if this did go to court, it’d put Nefedro in the position where he could legitimately be ordered to prove his powers. . .potentially under proper scientifically controlled conditions, which Nefedro would likely be incapable of doing. And if such a case actually won, it’d clearly open the door for anyone to challenge a fraud ruling on the grounds that it’s their heritage or their religion, etc.

“I don’t think it’s strange for us to have laws that protect against fraud,” said Clifford Royalty, zoning division chief in the Montgomery County attorney’s office, adding that “religion has nothing to do with it. He’s not made that allegation in the lawsuit.”

“The practice is fraudulent,” Royalty said, “because no one can forecast the future.”

And when asked to foretell his own fortune, Nefedro naturally responded:

Unfortunately, he says, fortunetelling doesn’t work that way: He can’t read his fortune.

I couldn’t agree more.