Friday, May 25, 2007

He Ain’t No Fortunate Son

Ivan Dario Lopez of Springdale was arrested recently by Springdale Detective Al Barrios. Fortuneteller Lopez is accused of scamming local residents by performing spiritual rituals designed to cure bad luck and was charged with theft by deception. He was booked into the Washington County Detention Center then released on $150,000 bail.

Springdale detectives were tipped about Lopez by Jim Pierce, a city code enforcement officer, who visited the Lopez home regarding an alleged code violation and stated the home was sparsely furnished in such a way that the occupants could "pick up and leave" in five minutes. Don’t tell me that Springdale now has some city code on interior decorating that requires a certain amount of home decorating or furnishings? If the city is into aesthetics, they should start with a sign ordinance.

Arresting officer Barrios said he suspects Lopez is part of a band of Hispanic gypsies; “this guy denies being one, but the evidence points otherwise." Officer Barrios is just making this up to reinforce prejudice and stereotypes, because Roma (gypsies) are not Hispanic.

Police said they found a Spanish flier advertising tarot card readings, health and money cures, romantic bindings and other spiritual services. The flier was titled "Buda Fe," translated as Buddha Faith. This should have been a clear warning to the highly-trained Springdale police force. A long line of state and federal cases protect such activity. See Rushman v. City of Milwaukee , 959 F. Supp. 1040 (E.D. Wis. 1997); Spiritual Psychic Science Church v City of Azusa, 39 Cal 3d 501, 217 Cal Rptr 225, 703 P2d 1119. (Cal. 1985); Trimble v. City of New Iberia, 73 F. Supp. 2d 659 (W.D. La. 1999).; and Angeline v. Mahoning County Agr. Soc., 993 F. Supp. 627 (N.D. Ohio 1998). I dare to "predict" that Prosecuting Attorney John Threet knows them well.

As Judge Richard Arnold said in Argello V. City of Lincoln, 143 F.3d 1152 (8th Cir. 1998), “if citizens wish to have their fortunes told, or to believe in palm- reading or phrenology, they are free to do so under our system of government, and to patronize establishments or "professionals" who purport to be versed in such arts. Government is not free to declare certain beliefs - for example, that someone can see into the future - forbidden. Citizens are at liberty to believe that the earth is flat, that magic is real, and that some people are prophets.” This applies equally to the bad luck cures or fortunetelling of Ivan Lopez as it does to the pitch for life everlasting or claims for creationism of Ronnie Floyd. Theft by deception charges cannot be sustained against either.

Police have a lame back-up charge with which to persecute Lopez; they claim he had no business license on file with the city of Springdale. What BS. Trying to discriminate against and punish fringe religions has a long history, but the courts declared the “business licence” pretext unconstitutional more than 60 years ago. See, Jones v. Opelika, 319 U.S. 103 (1943); Berry v. City of Hope, 205 Ark. 1105 (1943). Cops who ignore these constitutional rights are subject to prosecution for damages.

So why must we endure such nonsense? An answer comes from the center of enlightenment, Livingston Parish, Louisiana, which this month unanimously enacted a criminal ordinance against all forms of fortunetelling. When confronted with the constitution, Councilman Jimmy McCoy replied, “I got elected to represent my constituents. I am a Christian, and I love the Lord, period.” That should settle it.

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