Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Friday, April 10, 2015

Tour Guides Lose Free Speech Appeal

In many cities, tour guides are hired to lead visitors to look at local landmarks, often teaching some history along the way. In recent years, several cities enacted laws requiring tour guides to be certified in history before they can charge the public for their tours. In 2008 there were reports of some guides spreading malicious falsehoods about famous Americans, some of them quite offensive, and so the Philadelphia City Council now requires tour guides to pass a history test before they can charge for their guide services. On tours of Independence Hall and other sites maintained by the federal government, the guides say only what they are allowed to say. But in other locations, it was anything goes until cities began requiring tour guides to have licenses. Philadelphia requires tour guides to get a score of at least 65% on a test with 150 questions about local historical sites.

A similar law to require licensing of tour guides was passed in New Orleans. But the tour guides sued to be free from any control or supervision of what they can say on the tours. They lost. The courts upheld the licensing requirement, but didn’t specify what the guides may say or not say. The licensing requirement tests applicants on their knowledge of the area’s historical and cultural history and on the landmarks in the city. The tour guides appealed, but the Supreme Court refused to hear their case, so the licensing requirement remains in effect.

I think that is a good result. If you go as a visitor to a city with many historical landmarks where great events happened, I’d like to know that I’m getting true history, not some oddball comments by a guide who’s trying to be humorous or perhaps even trying to downgrade or belittle our Founding Fathers.

Listen to the radio commentary here:

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