Poetess and Stranger Offers Readings After Petoskey Divination Act Repeal
PETOSKEY — After a surprisingly complicated process, Petoskey’s outdated anti-fortune-telling ordinance has been repealed with no plans to replace it.
In early 2022, Poetess and Stranger owner Sarah Snider contacted then-City Manager Al Terry about a mostly unenforced ordinance banning divination within city limits.
The policy, which stated that “it is unlawful for any person to engage in divination or pretend to tell fortunes for wages, gain, or reward,” is filed in a section of the city code that deals with “miscellaneous offenses and provisions”, and grouped alongside a handful of “offences against persons”.
At first, the city council saw no reason to uphold the law, but after an opposing view arose, it sought to appease both sides.
It’s unclear when or why the ordinance went into effect, but it was updated in 2014 after an illicit divination business was forced out of town due to the owner’s connection to a ” non-traditional organized crime,” according to the era. Director of Public Safety John Calabrese at a City Council meeting.
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When it was brought up again earlier this year, the council asked Terry and city attorney Matt Cross to consider possible alternatives to the ban. One of the orders that was reviewed during the process was Warren’s, where an order requires psychic business owners to be fingerprinted and pay $150 per year, plus the cost of a background check. of the police, to obtain a license.
Petoskey’s first draft rule was based on Warren’s order and would have included mandatory photo IDs and exceptions for public entertainment, or in the context of religious ceremonies by “good faith” churches or religious institutions. faith “. This project was later abandoned by the council.
“The problem was always for the city and specifically for the Department of Public Safety, it obviously wasn’t infringing on anyone’s religious practices. It was the potential for fraud, for taking advantage of people. So that was the impetus. That’s what the motivation was,” Cross said.
Concerns have been expressed by council members regarding civil liberties and First Amendment rights, particularly religious freedom.
“We started the process by looking at other municipalities that had undertaken similar schemes and to start with that and propose it to the council, but then we realized after the fact that there was a law passed (that) essentially prevents the municipalities to really regulate any profession,” Cross said.
“It may not be that broad, but at the end of the day there was a law that they felt was really preventing the city from doing what they wanted to do in the first place. So at this point it is repealed and there is no intention of moving forward to put anything in its place.
Cross said he discovered the state doesn’t need a license to charge for divination services, which means Petoskey can’t require it either.
“I have my First Amendment rights like everyone else. So I decided to fight it,” Snider said. also rallied with me and expressed concern about the precedent it would set.”
Snider said Reverend Ryan Donahoe of First Presbyterian Church in Petoskey spoke at the meeting to say the ordinance as written would mean Petoskey pastors would be in violation. Since not all ministers are ordained, the religious exemption would not apply.
Donahoe was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.
Snider, who is an atheist, said she appreciates the support from the local Christian community.
“As an atheist, I was really afraid that they would try to talk about religious freedom. And as an atheist, I believe that covers my freedom of religion. It doesn’t change the fact that I’m also a practicing witch. But atheism to me is just mine, just my thing,” Snider said.
“I appreciate each person’s belief system because it’s built on their lifelong experiences. And so when I had the support of a religious leader in that community, I really had the feeling that I, as a person, was supported.
Due to the ambiguity surrounding freedom of religion and the issue surrounding state licensing, the board felt that the proposed settlement would not only violate the First Amendment, but departed from the original intent, which was to clarify and correct city law for current citizens.
“All of that energy expenditure was ultimately for naught except that it proved to our community that we truly believe in religious freedom and freedom from religion,” Snider said. “And that when you find something that doesn’t seem right, you can stand up to our city leaders and voice your concerns, your concerns will be heard. I felt like I had participated in something that had done something.
With the ordinance now repealed, Poetess and Stranger began offering readings on Fridays and Saturdays from 2-6 p.m. Divination techniques currently offered are herbal reading, psychometrics, and spirit board. Snider herself offers readings where she does the reading on her own, then types a report for the topic.
Megan VanLoo-Grimm offers psychometrics and spirit boarding, which she has been practicing for 21 years. She approached Snider to offer readings in the store, which is when she discovered the prescription.
“I understand why they felt (like) they had to, but at the same time if they had come into the (fortune telling) community and asked, I don’t think they should have put place an order,” VanLoo-Grimm said.
Now that the issue is resolved, Snider said she’s grateful the council worked with her to find a solution and hopes she can continue to expand the divination services she offers.
“I am very grateful to the city council for being so open, curious and capable. It was really my first foray into trying to change something civic-wise. And I have to admit I was very impressed,” she said.