Virginia Town Freaks Out at Occult Shop

Here we find a weird but charming story about why secular law needs to exist to protect religious plurality, and the strange bedfellows that exist between communities.

In the town of Richlands, VA police ordered the proprietor of one Mountain Magic occult shop to stop giving customers tarot card readings because ‘there is not a permitted use for tarot card reading in the zoning laws’.

Be advised, someone might be looking at cards like these without government permission

“They can apply to the zoning commission to have it added as a permitted use and if it gets added then they would be aloud [sic] to obtain a license to do that,” said town police chief Frank Dorton.

Now just to be clear about the nature of Virginia law, it is completely legal to privately sell a total stranger a firearm in a Walmart parking lot, but this town apparently requires a license to play a card game within the confines of your own building.

Is this a Church/State Issue?

It certainly looks that way to me. I looked into the town’s business licensing requirements and the town actually does have a category for “Fortune teller/Palmist”, so I suppose it’s possible that this whole fuss is just a clerical error or the town (which isn’t exactly a bustling metropolis) trying to squeeze a little extra tax revenue out of a citizen by forcing them to resubmit an application. But that doesn’t seem to be the case as the license fee is a tax based on revenue so the type of business doesn’t really have any effect on how much money goes to local government coffers. More to the point, the shop wasn’t even charging for the readings, which it gave away as a means to generate foot traffic to convert into sales.

Presumably, next week the police will stop the town’s local St. Mary’s Catholic Church from distributing communion because the business licensure application doesn’t list restaurants or food services. Oh wait, sorry, that will never happen.

Despite all that, shop owner Mark Mullins did the neighborly thing and is petitioning the town council to add tarot card reading to the town’s dumb licensing requirements.

Christians Bombard Town Meeting

The town council failed to vote on the zoning change because church groups packed the Town Hall in a move reminiscent of The Satanic Temple’s attempts to give invocations in other parts of the country. According to local reporting the majority of the opposition cited “biblical teachings as a reason for a denial.”

“I don’t really want my children thinking that’s OK if they go in there and they get confused and don’t know what something is,” said one woman who apparently believes that playing cards will somehow turn rural Virginia into ground zero for the apocalypse. “If we open that up in this area and we’re letting people go into this, will their blood be required of our hands?”

“One woman took prayer out of school and we sat back and done nothing, thinking it was going to be harmless,” added one local pastor. “I want the board and everyone else to think about that.”

I would like their town board to think about that too, since it was harmless and nothing bad happened. I would also like them to think about how the first amendment actually works and just leave these upstanding small business entrepreneurs alone to conduct their affairs without government overreach. I might not believe that tarot cards have any mystical ability to tell you anything, but people can and should do what they want without people who don’t agree with them being able to try and manipulate the law to stop them from doing something so benign. 

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • At least Mountain Magic is more or less starting from a clean slate to getting the local by-laws changed. Where I used to live for a time in rural North Carolina more than a few small towns had by-laws that required fortune-tellers to pay a $500 fee for a one-year business license compared to $25 or $50 for basically everybody else’s one-year business license. $500 isn’t an insurmountable amount of money, but in some communities it goes a long way toward keeping out the undesirables.

    Anyway, these by-laws are both counter-productive and behind the times:

    Town- and city-councils who fear charlatans and con-artists aren’t doing anything to discourage those kinds of operators because the kind of people who go to the trouble of establishing brick-and-mortar store-fronts quite often have roots in the local community and therefore also have a vested interested in keeping a good name.

    These by-laws also don’t do anything to push snakes out of good, Christian communities because they have no impact on fortune-tellers who use all kinds of direct marketing, word of mouth, pop-up booths, online listing/scheduling services, etc. to connect with local clients. I’ll bet absolutely anything that Mountain Magic knows the other operators in the same area offering fortune-telling.

  • hankf68

    I live in this twilight zone of a town. For family reasons. It is totally about the religiously powerful churches around here and their influence in the towns politics and police force. They are the christian taliban that says those people are child molesters and evil, demonic witches. It should be called Salem here instead of Richlands. I am atheist btw and do not care either way as long as it doesn’t infringe on my rights to be free from religion, but this town is messed up. All the police cars have the “In God We Trust” stickers, which I think is wrong and unconstitutional. We are are supposed to be a secular nation and this kind of stuff cannot stand. This is a most beautiful place, but the people in power and the churches sux and ruin this place.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    Hmm.. Will these bigots see reason?***Shakes magic 8 ball*** “Ask again later.”*** Consults I-Ching *** (can’t read ancient Chinese)*** looks at palm*** Washes hand***Pulls random card out of tarot deck*** Decides not to vote for Trump (;

  • careful who you tell about that (gasp) non belief, if things are as bad as you say, they may just fine you and then run you out of town at the far end of a burning stick…good god it’s a silly tarot thing. what’s next? Ouija boards?

  • thornyrose

    I thought that our city council was bad for choosing a more expensive trash collection service!
    Well we can read the Tarot, or the Bible or the Necronomicon or any other book that interests you here. Likewise you can play any card game or board game, Chess, Monopoly, Go, Scrabble,Cludo or any other that you enjoy in our town. I really love West Covina.

  • Judgeforyourself37

    Oh, good gravy, what a bunch of RWNJs. This is why we need to strengthen our laws regarding the separation of church and state, as they are becoming weaker. Remember that Hobby Lobby fiasco, when the employer has the right to decide what type of health care their employees should have. Hobby Lobby won’t use contraception, so their employees can’t either? What is wrong with that picture. Suppose Hobby Lobby owners are not diabetic, do they want to deny insulin to their employees, too?
    Fine for you owners of Hobby Lobby eschewing birth control, pop out a kid every ten months, go for it. However, do not expect your employees to be obliged to do the same. My grand daughters love art, and will not patronize Hobby Lobby, they drive to A. C. Moore. Interestingly enough I was at a mall in central MA, and there was a Hobby Lobby next door to an A. C. Moore. The A. C. Moore was packed with customers, whereas the Hobby Lobby was vacant with the exception of their sales associates.
    Remember the owners of a cake shop that would not sell and decorate a cake for a same gender couple? You who bake cakes are in business to sell and decorate cakes, not run a fundamentalist church. Sell and decorate cakes, do not impose your set of morality on your customers.
    I hope that there is an alternate cake shop and that all people wishing a cake will walk or driver by your business and buy their cakes where they are not asked personal questions, that have nothing to do with selling cakes.

  • Tuna

    Then they start fining the yoga teachers.

  • ThomasBonsell

    This appears to be more of a regulation-of-commerce issue than religious freedom. That should mean that using a card game as a form of advertisement would be as legal as any other advertising or promotional activity. It becomes a religious issue only when religion pokes its nose into something it isn’t allowed to do. Just as religious bakers are required to honor the sales contract they offered to make regarding the commerce of cake selling, religious leaders should not be allowed to make religion an issue when the only issue is commerce.

  • hankf68

    Lol, I am a closet atheist only to my family…as far as this town goes, f em. It’s not like I can get a movement behind me though for atheist, not like the Magic Mountain can, who I support based on constitution grounds, as I think there are very few of us around here and they remain silent. It is messed up, I was serious. Twilight Zone, Twin Peaks kinda messed up, lol.

  • hankf68

    What yoga teachers? :O 😀

  • Peter

    If the person started a church, and tarot cards were a form of their worship, then they wouldn’t need a permit because they would be protected by the Constitution. Furthermore, all income would be tax free. Easy peasy.

  • Skipdallas

    The fear and stupidity of the religious among us is staggering. Their willful ignorance is baffling to a person that appreciates scholarship and Learning. I guess that it is easier to go through life letting others make Life-Choices for you.

  • Cage KY

    Oh, how I feel your pain. Ever heard of Kim Davis? She’s STILL our infamous county clerk, even after the Commonwealth put her in jail. Above our Sheriff’s Office counter is the biblical verse, “Blessed are the Peacemakers.” It goes on and on and on. I’ve noticed that, unless you live in a large populated venue with a good chance of media coverage, organizations such as FFR or ACLU aren’t that interested in rural forgotten atheists, pagans. Wicca, etc. Understandable, but still unfortunate.

  • Philip Buczko

    Not being up on these things can anyone tell me if minors are being given an alcoholic drink when they take communion in a church and are under the age of 21 which I believe is the legal age to start consuming adult beverages (in the USA but you can buy a gun aged 18) such as wine? If they do not use wine, perhaps using bilberry juice instead, then can transubstantiation occur? If the church is corrupting minors shouldn’t the police do something about it? If a substitute is used instead of wine, will Jesus know?

  • Philip Buczko

    I’ve seen the film, it’s blessed are the cheese makers, common mistake.

  • Well, since they believe transubstantiation is literal then under RFRA it doesn’t matter whether it’s wine or not because their ‘deeply held belief’ is that it’s no longer wine. Just like how birth control pills aren’t abortifacients but Hobby Lobby’s owners think they are so they don’t have to offer them in their healthcare package. 😉 Of course we could clear this ‘becoming the body and blood’ stuff up with some tests but I doubt you’ll find a priest willing to participate.

  • Cage KY

    Well, we’re screwed then. Not one dairy cow in the whole county. It’s all beef, pork, goats and chickens. Dairy cows are too fragile for this terrain. The Amish on the flats north of us control the cheese. Guess that’s why they’re never in the courthouse.

  • Guthrum

    While these sort of things are harmless, it would be best for adults, young people, and children not to get involved in that mess. Especially children and young people. They should definitely stay away from those “ouija” boards.
    The churches, police, and schools pass out information to educate parents about occultic activities.

  • Guthrum

    That is one reason to avoid the occult nonsense and its various paraphenalia. It is a waste of time and is not a good influence.

  • Guthrum

    Some churches use wine, but it usually is very low in alcohol. And the various agencies that control alcohol drinks give exemptions to churches for its use in religious services and the sacrament of communion.

  • Skipdallas

    And you think christianity is a good influence?

  • If they’re harmless then why avoid them? Do you know what harmless means?