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ACLU: Panhandling = Freedom of Speech

In an effort to curtail panhandling, the Pittsburgh City Council passed some ordinances relating to when and where panhandling would be limited.  The mayor was expected to approve these recommendations on Wednesday.

In a last-minute amendment, council added a provision to keep panhandlers at least 25 feet away from church entrances. The ordinance also would prohibit begging between sunset and sunrise, within 10 feet of a bus stop or street food vendor and within 25 feet of a sidewalk cafe or a line of people waiting to enter a theater or buy tickets.

As is always the case, the ACLU has to leave its footprint on anything they interpret as "a no-no" (emphasis mine):

Barbara Feige, president of the Greater Pittsburgh American Civil Liberties Union, said she doesn’t plan to challenge the ordinance’s constitutionality in court now, but she wouldn’t rule it out if people complain. Feige said it’s unconstitutional to restrict freedom of speech from sunset to sunrise, which is too vague to be enforced properly by police.

I felt the need to go to my trusty dictionary to get some definition behind these basic concepts.

Sunset:  The event or time of the daily disappearance of the sun below the western horizon.

Sunrise:  The event or time of the daily first appearance of the sun above the eastern horizon.

Panhandling:  To approach strangers and beg for money or food.

Call me a simpleton, but last I checked, it was pretty simple to determine what sunset and sunrise are.  Even my local weather celebrity tells me the exact hour and minute of sunrise and sunset every day.  So the whole sunset/sunrise issue is resolved.

Now, my trusty dictionary says that panhandling is approaching strangers and begging for money or food.  I cannot be convinced that panhandling falls within freedom of speech.  I would actually go a step further and say that after sunset, a person who is a stranger to me approaching me would actually be quite frightening (whether they are panhandling or not).  I think the limitations make perfect sense and are not out of line in any way. 

Who is the ACLU fooling?  Someone will complain, more than likely the panhandler who isn’t getting his or her "fair share" of income due to the limitations, and the ACLU will put on their cape and swoop down in an attempt to "save the underdog."  At the risk of sounding completing heartless (okay, a risk I have to take), I have to wonder if a panhandler’s income is being reported to the IRS?  What would the ACLU accomplish by fighting for a panhandler’s right to panhandle after dark?  Why wouldn’t they just offer the panhandler a job in order to truly help?  [crickets chirping]

Okay, I think you get the point.  I just think the ACLU could do so much more by actually HELPING someone.  Instead, they focus on these types of cases in an effort to help "the little guy" defeat the big, mean system.  This doesn’t help anyone, and is truly a waste of our time.


Please stop over at Stop the ACLU! to read more about the ACLU’s involvement in issues you may be surprised about!

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1 Comment

From the bum's point of view, I can see the problem. If he's allowed to beg until 8 PM in the summer, why must he stop at 5 PM in the winter? This is cutting him off from a signifigant amount of his revenue stream. People goimg out to socialize do so at the same hours, whatever time of year. A bum may have a regular area with a good cash intake between 5-8 PM, and this ordinance cuts him (or her) off from that for half of the year. I guess they don't want their work to be seasonal.

BTW, I apologize to you in my latest post, for not following up on the meme tag thing. I had a PC crisis. Great post, and believe me, I know about bums!