Philadelphia vs. Ben Franklin's Secret Shame


Speaking publicly in front of Philadelphia's Independence Hall may soon require a license.

Mayor Michael Nutter signed the law in April amid concerns that some [tour] guides were perpetuating gross inaccuracies, including false claims that Benjamin Franklin had 69 illegitimate children and that three-time widow Betsy Ross killed her husbands.

City officials say they are trying to protect the history that brings millions of tourists to Philadelphia and generates billions of dollars in revenue every year. They don't want anyone leaving town believing that Ben Franklin stands atop City Hall (it's William Penn) or that homes were once taxed based on how wide they were.

"Tourism is a major part of our local economy," said Douglas Oliver, a spokesman for the mayor. "It is reasonable to ensure that tourists are getting accurate information."

I haven't been on a tour of Philly since I was forced to go as a kid, but I'd be more inclined to go back had anyone informed me about a murder-crazed seamstress-patriot. The Institute for Justice will represent three tour operators who are suing for their right to speak freely about the right to speak freely. On the flip side, Philadelphia Daily News columnist Elmer Smith has a column entitled "Should History Ignorance Be a Protected Right?" You could read the whole column, but Trey Parker and Matt Stone have already summarized it for you.