DEADWOOD — The first reading of an ordinance to rescind the ban on fortune-telling and clairvoyants in Deadwood made it through its first hurdle Monday night during the regularly scheduled meeting of the Deadwood City Commission, as the commission approved striking the language limiting such activities in Deadwood.
With several members of the audience stepping forth to address the commission regarding the repeal following an invitation to do so by Deadwood Mayor Chuck Turbiville, opinions came forth revealing a 50-50 split on the matter.
Mark Speirs of Deadwood spoke in favor of repealing the ordinance.
"I believe that individuals have the right to choose whether or not they will visit a fortune teller or clairvoyant," Speirs said. "I don't believe the government should be riding over us on matters such as these."
Father Michael Johnson of St. John's Episcopal Church in Deadwood asked that if the ordinance is repealed, the cemeteries be off limits for clairvoyant activities.
"When ground is set aside for burial, that ground is considered consecrated. Same as church property," Johnson said. "I would ask, Mr. Mayor, that the cemeteries not be designated for such activities."
Mary Kopco of Deadwood also spoke in favor of overturning the ordinance.
"I think it's antiquated and a lot of businesses already ignore what's covered in here," Kopco said. "A lot of gift shops sell talisman, horoscopes are contained in our newspapers, Zombie Walks held earlier this year, are a form of necromancy, as well as ghost tours. In fact, Halloween ... could be outlawed under this ordinance."
Nyla Griffith of Deadwood said that the ordinance should be repealed, as it's obviously been ignored at this point.
"If we start to enforce this, it could open up the city for a lawsuit. For some people, this is their religion and I think it's wrong to discriminate against any type of religion," Griffith said. "I think we need to get as far away as we can from government getting into peoples' personal lives. I'm very much in favor of removing the ordinance and preventing a law suit against the city."
Deadwood Chamber of Commerce and Visitor's Bureau George Milos said that the matter will be discussed further at a Feb. 11 Chamber Board meeting, as a member of the chamber board is in opposition of the repeal. The chamber made the request to repeal the ordinance in order to pursue the idea of holding a physic fair in Deadwood, an idea that arose from discussions at a Deadwood Revitalization Committee marketing committee meeting.
Ken Gienger thanked the Chamber for bringing the matter forth.
"We talk a lot about money. Unfortunately, we've not addressed the spiritual aspect and how this affects youth and our older members of our community," Gienger said. "My feeling is that this is a nice ordinance to have and I would be for us to stay with this ordinance."
Mark Lance of Deadwood said that because of his faith in God, he wants the ordinance to stand.
"To me, the Bible says beware of soothsayers and people who would lead us astray, which is kind of what this ordinance is about," Lance said. "I don't want my grandkids to be exposed to something that would lead them away from God. That's what this stuff does ... I personally don't think it's acceptable. I hope the ordinance stays in place. I don't want all this stuff to come in and cause a rift in our community."
Turbiville said the ordinance, which was originally passed on Oct. 5, 1993 and discovered two comments.
"One felt this type of business was not something Deadwood should allow because it was not conducive to residents and families and would increase the police department's workload," Turbiville said. "The other raised moral questions about these types of businesses being allowed in Deadwood."
He said that the ordinance lists a number of businesses not allowed in Deadwood, pointing out that because newspapers contain Astrographs, following along directly with the letter of the law, then newspapers would not be able to sell or dispense their wares within the city of Deadwood.
"I agree that this is an antiquated ordinance. It's 21 years old," Turbiville said. "I think the ordinance was passed without proper consideration of the consequences of the ordinance. I think it was passed without the forethought of what we would have to do in future."
Turbiville said that looking at some of the ordinance's areas, they are dealing with religious matters.
"What we are doing in Deadwood is saying they don't have the same right to practice their religion as someone else ... the last thing I want to see is the ACLU descend upon Deadwood and tell us our ordinance, in fact, is against free speech and practice of your religion," Turbiville said.
Turbiville addressed the concern that rescinding the ordinance would not be good for local children or that it would have a negative effect on them as they grow up.
"Last summer, we had a zombie run with 200 people dressed as zombies running all through Deadwood ... I did not hear a single individual tell me that was wrong," Turbiville said. "Three years ago when we took a bill to the state legislature regarding a store on Main Street selling synthetic marijuana that almost killed a couple of kids from Lead, not a word from you folks. Last summer a retail store on Main Street placed three semi-nude mannequins on Main Street in front of their store ... not a word. Not a single word. So I would question the rationale behind a decision to maintain the ordinance. I think we can handle anything that comes our way. We have a very good police department that can take care of that."
Georgeann Silvernail, who was the sole dissenting vote on the matter, disagreed with Turbiville emphasizing that there have been several comments regarding the controversial items he mentioned.
"As far as the ordinance goes, I know when we did this ordinance, we looked long and hard at it," Silvernail said. "Maybe it is antiquated, but we needed something in place pertaining to this. At the time it was set up animals were being slaughtered for their hearts and genitals, so I'm not willing to just kick this in the can."
Gary Todd, who made the motion to rescind the ordinance, said "I'm kind of a majority rules type of guy."
"Unfortunately tonight, it looks like it's about 50/50," Todd said. "I don't think the police force would allow anything that's harmful to children or related behaviors. I want the people of Deadwood to be confident that we will protect people. From that perspective, I want it to stay in place to protect people from activities we don't want to happen. My concern is, like Chuck said, is this lawful? I don't believe this is. There are a lot of concerns here and I hope we make the right decision."
The motion to rescind the ordinance was seconded by Commissioner Joe Peterson.