Federal appeals court finds Charleston tour guide law violates First Amendment

A federal appeals court ruled that Charleston could not enforce an ordinance forcing guides to study a guide and pass a test to obtain a license to conduct tours of the city’s historic districts. The court found that the ordinance violates the First Amendment by restricting speech, “…it completely prohibits unlicensed tour guides from leading visitors on paid tours—an activity which, by its very nature, depends upon speech or expressive conduct. Although we acknowledge that the City enacted the Ordinance to protect Charleston’s economic well-being and safeguard its tourism industry, that alone does not shield the Ordinance from First Amendment scrutiny.” (Reason, June 13, 2020, by Eugene Volokh of The Volokh Conspiracy)

The tour guides wanted to conduct specialty tours that would not warrant studying the city’s lengthy guide. The judge writing for the majority of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth District said that before the city could restrict speech, it is “obliged to demonstrate that it actually tried or considered less-speech-restrictive alternatives and that such alternatives were inadequate to serve the government’s interest.” (Institute for Justice, June 11, 2020, by Andrew Wimer)

For related FAC coverage, click here and here.