Charleston tour guides ask federal judge to find licensing law unconstitutional


CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) — Tour guides in the City of Charleston have to get a license by passing an exam. Three tour guides filed a lawsuit asking a federal judge find it unconstitutional under the First Amendment.

The Institute of Justice will appear in federal court downtown Charleston on Thursday, April 6 at 10 a.m. on behalf of those three tour guides.

To obtain a license to talk to tour groups in Charleston, would-be guides must prove to the government that they have mastered the topics on its 200-question written exam. Existing tour guides are also required to retake and pass the exam every three years to maintain a license to talk.

There are thousands of stories to be told about Charleston, but telling one without a license is punishable by fines of up to $500 or even 30 days in jail.

We’re told this is the Institute for Justice’s fifth lawsuit challenging tour guide licensing. IJ recently won its challenge in Savannah after the city repealed its law in October 2015, and has successfully represented tour guides in Philadelphia and in Washington, D.C., where the D.C. Circuit struck down a similar licensing and testing requirement under the First Amendment. IJ also challenged New Orleans’ licensing scheme, which was upheld by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2014.

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