Charleston, S.C. (WCIV) — Trial continues over the constitutionality of a Charleston law that makes it illegal for tour guides to talk to paying tour groups without first passing a test on the city's historic district and more.
In January of 2016, a group of would-be Charleston tour guides, represented by the non-profit Institute for Justice, filed a lawsuit arguing that Charleston’s licensing requirements for tour guides violate the First Amendment. This week's trial is the result of a two-year battle.
During testimony Tuesday, one long-time tour operator said if licensing requirements were lifted, "It would be like the Wild West."
Currently, to obtain a permit from the City of Charleston to give tours and tell stories to paying customers, would-be guides must pass a two-hour, 200-question written exam based on the city's official tour guide training manual. Maintaining a tour guide license requires retaking the exam every three years.
Citing First Amendment rights, the Institute for Justice argues that people must be allowed to decide who they want to listen to, rather than government officials deciding who will be permitted to speak.
This is the institute’s fifth lawsuit challenging tour guide licensing.
Three previous lawsuits were successful in Washington, D.C., Savannah and Philadelphia. Only one such law has ever been upheld by the courts: New Orleans’ licensing requirements, which were upheld by the 5th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals in 2014.