Soothsaying Laws

The AP recently ran an article about “soothsaying laws” which crack down on psychics who extract money for phony services. Different laws in different placed, but they are distinct from standard laws against fraud, which has irritated many practitioners:

Authorities say they aim to distinguish between catering to people’s interest in the supernatural and conning them. Still, some psychics feel anti-fortunetelling laws are unfair to them and to people who believe seers have something to offer.

New York psychic Jesse Bravo decries seers who make impossible promises or press clients to consult, and pay, them frequently. “There are a lot of predators out there,” he says.

But Bravo, an investment banker who moonlights as a medium, rues the disclaimer he’s compelled to give clients: Readings are for “entertainment only.” Unless solely for amusement, telling fortunes or using “occult powers” to give advice is a misdemeanor under New York state law.

“It’s a little insulting,” he says. “I believe in what I do, and the people who are coming to me believe in what I do. … But that’s OK — the state doesn’t have to believe in what I do.”

I would think that the state not believing in the efficacy of what you practice would make a huge difference in the way your treated under the law. The only way to get around that is to make it “entertainment,” sort of the way pro wrestling became “sports entertainment” to get around regulations on athletic competitions.

The predators that Jesse Bravo (can that be a real name?) complain about are serious enough that they require some kind of response above and beyond the usual anti-fraud laws, particularly since true believers are apt to be swindled acknowledging it. The article reports that romance author Jude Deveraux lost $17 million over 17 years to a single psychic before she finally caught on.

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