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Dumb Laws: Dumbest Laws Involving Carnivals

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on March 24, 2011 6:49 AM

We're back with another installment of Dumb Laws, and guess what?

We're talking about carnival folk today!

Now, you have to remember that before there was religious intolerance, there was religious intolerance. People were a bit afraid of anything that wasn't part of a Judeo-Christian lifestyle, and they took it out on their fellow countrymen.

How did they do this? Well, the states pretty much collectively outlawed carnivals.

Carnivals may have been a staple of your youth, but back in the day, some people were wary of the mysticism, freak shows, deceitful magicians, and people who sold their souls to the devil for endless flexibility.

Come to think of it, some of us still are.

The best of these dumb laws hails from North Carolina. Repealed in 2004, it was illegal to be a professional fortune-teller. But, if you decided to see into the future as an amateur, you could do so during a school or church social.

Perhaps the sanctity of learning and/or God kept the evil spirits in check?

Indiana also directly targeted traditional carnival occupations. For a while, the state outlawed puppet shows, "wire dancing," and tumbling acts performed for money. Break the law, pay a $3 fine.

Hawaii was a bit more subversive in its attempt to destroy childhood fun. The state once banned the placement of coins in one's ears. Clearly this was an attempt to stop magicians from performing their most basic tricks. Who else goes around with coins in their ears?

Perhaps we should all count ourselves lucky that, in current times, none of these dumb laws would be likely to withstand legal scrutiny--they simply have no rational basis.

However, if someone wants to ban clowns, there may be an argument for that.

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