Phila. Wants Tour Guides to Be Licensed

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," July 2, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MICHAEL STEELE, GUEST CO-HOST: Philadelphia, the city best known as the site where the Declaration of Independence was signed, is in danger of tarnishing its reputation as being the pillar for free speech.

A federal lawsuit filed today on behalf of three Philadelphia tour guides seeks to overturn a law passed in April that would make it — get this — illegal for anyone to give tours of the city without passing a test and obtaining a government license. Welcome to America.

Joining us now is Philadelphia tour guide, Ann Boulais, and her attorney, Robert McNamara.

I just have one question: what the heck is that all about? What's going on, Ann?

ANN BOULAIS, PHILADELPHIA TOUR GUIDE: You kind of said it right in a nutshell. The city council has chosen to censor our freedom of speech in the city that wrote the Constitution and take away or right of a First Amendment and speak by kind of putting a gag order on us.

Video: Watch the interview

STEELE: So how does this work? Now, if you're a tour guide, and you want to tell me about the Liberty Bell, you have to have had a test first, pass a test first, and then have a license to do that? I mean, what's — I don't get what this law is supposed to do.

BOULAIS: Well, that's absolutely correct. The city is concerned that there are inaccuracies being passed around, and so they believe that if we take a test, that's going to guarantee that the inaccuracies are directed and provide better guides. What it's going to actually prove is that I can pass a test.

STEELE: Interesting. So what are the inaccuracies they're concerned about? I mean, this sounds like something Alan's team would probably have right up their alley here.

COLMES: I'll speak for myself.

STEELE: You know, this political correctness here. I mean, what are they afraid you're going to say, Ann? The Liberty Bell isn't cracked? I mean, what?

BOULAIS: Well, I can't really speak for that, because they've never taken my tour, and I strive to give an accurate tour. So I can't speak for other inaccuracies that have been passed on to them.

STEELE: Mr. McNamara, I mean, as a lawyer you've got to be — you've got to be smiling to yourself a little bit, buddy, here. What — OK, tell me from a legal perspective, what are you — what's the purpose of the suit today?

ROBERT MCNAMARA, ATTORNEY: Well, what we're trying to do is uphold a pretty simple principle, which is that the Constitution protects your right to communicate for a living, and that's true whether you're a journalist or a standup comedian or a tour guide.

Traditionally in this country, the way it works is we trust the people to decide who they want to listen to. We don't trust the government to decide who gets to speak. And Philadelphia has basically just turned that directly on its head.

COLMES: Ann and Robert, it's Alan. I want to pick up on — are people sneaking around, phony tour guides, saying the Liberty Bell, held together with Elmer's glue-all? People making stuff up? What — what led to this?

MCNAMARA: Honestly, the thing to look at is what the law — what they actually passed. And that's a law that gives the city of Philadelphia the power to decide who may speak and who may not.

And it's easy enough to understand why a government would want this kind of power. Imagine that the city had set up a minister of sports to decide who got to talk about baseball.

COLMES: Sounds very Orwellian. Does the city have a right to say, "You know, we want an official, you know, sanctioned version of the history. We want the tour guides to be historically accurate. We want to have some control over that, because we don't want false information being given out"? Is there anything to that point?

MCNAMARA: Well, the city of Philadelphia doesn't own the history. This isn't Disney World, and they're not talking about the Haunted Mansion. We're talking about private citizens talking to other private citizens on public streets.

If the city wants to have its own tour guides, wants to have special city-certified tour guides, they're free to do that. But they can't fine people for unauthorized talking.

COLMES: So Ann, how did you wind up with an attorney? You were leading the charge against this and decided that your rights were being violated, right?

BOULAIS: Well, kind of. I was contacted by Bob, and I elected to join the suit, because I really believe that it's the wrong thing that the city is doing.

COLMES: And you are somebody — well, you're working as a tour guide, and you should have the right to do that, obviously, without the city saying you can't say that.

You can actually show somebody that's the Liberty Bell, but you can't talk about it.

BOULAIS: Exactly. I can walk up, I can point to it. But the second I open my mouth and say when it was commissioned or when it was cast, I'm in violation of the law, if I haven't taken the test.

COLMES: So there's the Liberty Bell. But "It was commissioned on such and such a date," now you get a fine?

BOULAIS: Exactly.

COLMES: That's unbelievable. It really is.

Anyway, thank you both. You've brought us together, Michael and I.

STEELE: On this one.

COLMES: Ann and Robert, thank you very much for being with us. Appreciate it very much for your time.

You see? We can agree on that.

STEELE: We can, Alan, and I appreciate that.

COLMES: All right. Coming up, a flyer featuring a puppy is causing outrage in one community. We're going to tell you why this flyer has residents calling for an investigation. That's coming up next.

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