Federal judge rules tour guides’ free speech rights violated by licensing requirement

A federal district judge in South Carolina ruled that Charleston’s law requiring tour guides to obtain a license violated their First Amendment rights. “The [tour-guide] licensing law imposes real burdens on those hoping to be tour guides in Charleston,” the court’s opinion reads, “[b]ut the record demonstrates that the City never investigated or tried to use any less speech-restrictive alternatives … [And so the court] has no choice but to strike the licensing law down as unconstitutional under the First Amendment.” (Institute for Justice, August 3, 2018, by Andrew Wimer)

Since the city required prospective tour guides to take a 200 question exam on city history and pay almost $100 for the test and the test manual, many found it an onerous burden. Given that type of hurdle, the judge agreed that the test requirement was an unconstitutional restriction on speech. (Reason, August 6, 2018, by Nikhil Sridhar)

Several U.S. cities still have licensing requirements. Appellate courts have upheld licensing in New Orleans and struck it down in Washington, D.C. Charleston is considering a less rigorous requirement that might gain the judge’s approval in the interest of weeding out guides who provide bogus information to the public. (The Post and Courier, August 7, 2018, by Dave Munday)

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