December 7, 2011 9:18:00 AM
HATTIESBURG -- Hattiesburg city leaders have repealed a ban on fortune telling after a federal judge ruled the ordinance unenforceable.
The Hattiesburg City Council voted Tuesday to repeal the ordinance.
City Attorney Charles Lawrence said the ordinance will repeal in 120 days to allow city leaders time to get new regulations in place, such as zoning restrictions, on fortune-telling businesses.
U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett on Nov. 28 issued a preliminary injunction sought by Tommy and Marie Costello. The Costellos sued the city in August after their psychic and spiritual reading business was shut down by the city last year.
Starrett said in his order that he agreed with the Costellos that the ordinance was a violation of free speech.
Hattiesburg has joined cities Laurel, Petal and Meridian that do not prohibit fortune telling but approve the business based on proper zoning.
City Councilman Kim Bradley said he trusts the free market will decide whether fortune telling has a home in Hattiesburg.
"There is all kind of people out there doing business and doing different things. To me it's not really a big deal. I don't believe I'm going to spend my money over there and try to have my fortune told. I don't believe in that, but I'm sure it will offend some people," he said.
Lawrence said the city would have to create zoning restrictions for fortune tellers who want to practice their trade." The same restrictions for any other business."
The city of Meridian had been struggling with the same issue. In August, the Meridian council rescinded an ordinance that had outlawed fortune-telling businesses.
Meridian officials acted after being threatened with a lawsuit.
Meridian now requires fortune-telling businesses to be placed under a business zoning classification.
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