Do You Have a Talker’s Permit?

In some cities, talking without a license can get you in trouble.

Charleston, South Carolina, is just the latest battleground in the widespread First Amendment fight over tour guide licensing requirements. In Charleston, tour guides who tell stories without the city’s permission can face a $500 fine and 30 days behind bars. Charlestonians must pass two rigorous exams before they can legally obtain a license to speak for a living. And these tests are only administered four times a year.

“Any law that makes you pass a 200-question history exam and an oral exam before you can tell stories about Charleston flunks every test under the First Amendment,” said Arif Panju, an IJ attorney representing the three tour guides in the lawsuit.

Three Charleston tour guides have joined with IJ to file a First Amendment lawsuit in response to these unconstitutional barriers to entry. As with many cases pertaining to occupational licensing, a job that poses no risk to consumers is being strictly regulated in a way that only serves to limit competition.

IJ has been standing up for the right of tour guides to tell stories in public for years, and has triumphed over regulatory schemes in such historic cities as Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and Savannah.

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