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’.
“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.