A. Barton Hinkle on Begging and the First Amendment


Credit: Ed Yourdon / photo on flickr

Laws against panhandling have been around for decades. In case after case, courts have ruled them unconstitutional. But municipal leaders around the country keep looking for ways to impose them. Everyone knows why: Panhandlers, who are usually homeless, often look like heck and smell even worse, and that's bad for business. As one Honolulu city councilman said regarding an anti-panhandling ordinance there, he wanted "to make sure tourists are comfortable visiting Hawaii and are not constantly accosted for money." As A. Barton Hinkle explains, such rules violate the First Amendment rights of beggars.