Federal court strikes Charleston tour guide license law

Federal court strikes Charleston tour guide license law
The ordinance required guides to prove they mastered a manual about Charleston history to obtain a license before they could conduct paid stories. (Source: Live 5/File)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Thursday a Charleston law requiring anyone who gives paid tours of the city to first obtain a license.

The ordinance, which was first struck down in 2018 in response to a lawsuit brought by the Institute for Justice, required guides to prove they mastered a nearly 400-page manual recounting the facts the institute said city leaders deemed were the most important. The prospective guides were required to pass a 200-question written exam.

A 2018 lawsuit argued that people should be allowed to decide who they want to listen to rather than city officials deciding who is permitted to get paid to speak.

Thursday's ruling affirms the 2018 ruling that the ordinance violated the First Amendment.

“In this country, we rely on people to decide who they want to listen to rather than relying on the government to decide who gets to speak,” Institute for Justice Senior Attorney Arif Panju said. “Charleston’s law was unconstitutional because it got that important principle exactly backwards.”

The city of Charleston has not yet responded to a request for comment on the court’s ruling.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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