Silencing panhandlers violates First Amendment rights

Return To Article
Add a comment
  • JP71 Ogden, UT
    Oct. 12, 2012 8:49 a.m.

    The LDS Church has advised its employees downtown to not give to panhandlers but to refer them to their local bishop or charity.

  • Liberal Ted Salt Lake City, UT
    Oct. 12, 2012 7:31 a.m.

    The Deseret News should have investigated a little more. Most panhandlers do have a source of income and in most instances are employed. The people who are homeless typically do not panhandle, but, seek assistance from shelters. Panhandlers are typcially drug users, not homeless and in short are scam artists.

    I don't have a problem with someone that is in need panhandling on the street. I do have a problem with faudulant activities being performed. I do have a problem of being harrassed, intimidated and threatened by these scam artists. I do have a problem walking down the street with these people blocking my path and following me for a block.

    I've worked downtown. I have run into the same people whose car just broke down, just got a flat tire, bike just got a flat, need a bus ticket, ran out of gas. Ask them where their car is. They don't remember or give an address miles away. Does it make sense that they walked for miles to find a phone to call a family member? Does it make sense that they don't have a credit card?

    I want my rights protected.

  • TheProudDuck Newport Beach, CA
    Oct. 10, 2012 9:34 p.m.

    Panhandling ought to be considered commercial speech (since it's basically a commercial exchange: you give me money, and I won't guilt-trip you), and subjected to the same, lower standard of First Amendment scrutiny that industrious people's commercial speech gets. Meaning that if you can regulate billboards, or cigarette advertising, you can regulate panhandlers' often aggressive solicitations.

  • Tolstoy salt lake, UT
    Oct. 10, 2012 8:02 p.m.

    I would suggest those of you casting aspersions on the poor go read the article on Pamela Atkins a true saint if ever there was one.

  • VIDAR Murray, UT
    Oct. 10, 2012 3:24 p.m.

    We have progressed in our society where people no longer need to stand on street corners and beg for food.
    I do not have unlimited resources, so the money, and assistance I give needs to go to those who truly need help.
    Rather than the shotgun method of throwing my money into the street and hope it will help, I choose to give my money to organizations that help the homeless.
    Has it been considered that what panhandlers do could be prosecuted under communication fraud?
    If someone says they are homeless, when they do in fact have a home, is that not fraud?
    I feel that panhandler take money away from the truly needy, which is a low kind of person to be.

  • Tolstoy salt lake, UT
    Oct. 10, 2012 3:10 p.m.

    Did you ever stop to think that he realized it would likely be "dumb" (unwise) for him to go into your private home to work?

  • cjb Bountiful, UT
    Oct. 10, 2012 2:39 p.m.

    I once offered a ... Will work for food ... sign holder some tasks to do at my house to earn some money and some food. (yes I now know that was dumb). The person refused my offer, it was evident he wanted hand puts, not a job as he was advertising.

    Its upsetting to me these types are out there. It would be nice if I could give confident in the fact it was going to someone really in need and not taking advantage.

  • A voice of Reason Salt Lake City, UT
    Oct. 10, 2012 11:32 a.m.

    LDS Liberal,

    I support traditional marriage between a man and a woman. I oppose government funding of abortion in any way, shape, or form. I believe in helping others (which I learned from a book that has nothing to do with your political party). But unlike liberals I don't believe in the U.S. social systems like welfare, unemployment, etc. How liberal do I sound so far?

    I consider myself conservative but not by the mainstream definition of the word. On some issues you could call me conservative, liberal, libertarian, utilitarian, or any other ism. While I generally lean conservative- in the end I am a believer in my faith and the rest fall where they fall.

    Am I trying to disagree with your associating me to something? Not really, because I'm not concerned with how others associate me politically. That's your doing, not mine. But what does concern me is when people associate 'helping others' with their own political affiliation.

    I'm LDS and that's all I need to know or care to consider myself.

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Oct. 10, 2012 10:31 a.m.


    “When the mother eagle thinks it is time for the young ones to fly she pushes them out of the nest. That may seem cruel to the liberals but it is actually an act of kindness that teaches self reliance.”

    Have you ever noticed that there is never any parallel to society in the law of the jungle? Even in the herds, it’s every man for himself. Although I do remember a story about Musk Oxen who would form a circle wall of horns to defend themselves from the wolves.

  • Tolstoy salt lake, UT
    Oct. 10, 2012 10:29 a.m.

    funny I have worked and volunteered for many many years with the homeless population and with all the organizations you googled I could be wrong but I am pretty sure you where not among the volunteers. Someone with your strong negative opinions would stand out and it would be extremely difficult for someone with your views to actually work with a population you show such distain for. secondly, I again have yet to see where christ ever gave you the right to claim discernment and pass judgement on who is deserving and who is not.

  • spring street SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    Oct. 10, 2012 10:21 a.m.

    Your comment just further illustrates my point. I worked for many years with the homeless including some how panhandle and your narrow gross over generalization that they are all drug addicts really does speak to your complete lack of understanding of the population. spend a little time doing some research there are some really great national organizations out with websites that can help you have a more accurate understanding of the population you seek to disparage.

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Oct. 10, 2012 10:10 a.m.

    It is hard for me to differentiate between the actions of the street beggar and the million dollar campaigns of the commercial charities.

    On the street my personal space is sometimes violated by persons with doubtful motives seeking money. Even the visual only request often sends pain to my brain. When in the privacy of my home, I am often unwillingly confronted with pictures and pleas for money to help poor children, sad animals and others with doubtful motives.

    Yet I seldom hear any complaints about the paid commercials. But in my mind I suspect that the owners of the commercials are much richer than the street beggar. And much less entitled to my hard earned money. I tend to distrust charities when I cant really see the recipient and the effect.

    It all goes back to the First Amendment. Does it apply to individuals or only groups?

  • Pat Sandy, UT
    Oct. 10, 2012 9:52 a.m.

    What about the panhandler that stands on a busy street corner impeding traffic that perhaps results in a traffic accident. It seems that either way the City loses : either through the First Amendment claim or not having an ordinance that adequately protects the health, safety and welfare of its residents.

  • Rifleman Salt Lake City, Utah
    Oct. 10, 2012 7:59 a.m.

    Re: spring street SALT LAKE CITY, UT

    Those of us who regularly donate our time in the food kitchen at the Rescue Mission at 4th South and 4th West in SLC understand the concept of charity. Those who are hungry eat there every day. In time you learn to discern those who are truly deserving, and those who think somebody else owes them a living.

    When the mother eagle thinks it is time for the young ones to fly she pushes them out of the nest. That may seem cruel to the liberals but it is actually an act of kindness that teaches self reliance.

  • Blue Bolshevik Salt Lake City, UT
    Oct. 9, 2012 10:23 p.m.

    I wish the panhandlers would quit ringing my door bell.

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    Oct. 9, 2012 8:00 p.m.

    Geez Voice of Reason,

    You're starting to sound like us Bleeding Heart Liberals.
    The Light is beginning to come on, and you can see.

    Welcome dear Brother...

  • A voice of Reason Salt Lake City, UT
    Oct. 9, 2012 6:59 p.m.

    From the Book of Mormon:

    "17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—

    18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.

    19 For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have..."


    The most important part of this to me is the line "and hath no interest in the kingdom of God."

    We put our value and importance on things. Some people value games. Some people value criticism. Some people value their faith, God, their neighbor, their families, etc.

    Choosing the right in this life is of eternal consequence. With that in mind-

    "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

  • Fitz Murray, UT
    Oct. 9, 2012 6:30 p.m.

    The editorial says it is alleged that panhandlers hurt business. The editors should spend some time talking to business owners about that. The Downtown Alliance, and other such entities, (I believe even the Mormon Church has taken this position) have asked people not to give money to panhandlers because they do hurt businesses. Donate to the shelters, or the food banks, but don't give it to panhandlers.

    There is a free speech component to panhandling, but panhandlers are not allowed to approach you, ask you, stand in your way, be in the right of way or other wise be aggressive. They are limited to holding their signs and staying out of the way.

  • 4601 Salt Lake City, UT
    Oct. 9, 2012 5:20 p.m.

    Good on you. Come to my part of the city next. LDS liberal can give to whom he or she may, but stop the sermons. A fool and their money are soon parted. Giving to St. Vincent's or the SL Rescue Mission does more good and will make your kids feel even better.

  • spring street SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    Oct. 9, 2012 5:11 p.m.

    @j thomas
    please tell us exactly where Christ tells us that we should label those beggar we judge as the undeserving as evil? Where exactly does he say anywhere that it is up to you to decide how is worthy of giving? Did he only give to those he determined where following his commandments or who he thought where worthy or did he give with both hands to the staring child and the street walkers etc...?

    Oct. 9, 2012 5:05 p.m.

    @j thomas
    you "choose" to give to your church because it keeps you in good standing and on the hopes and expectations that it will someday get you into heaven not the same as true charity.

  • RAB Bountiful, UT
    Oct. 9, 2012 4:43 p.m.

    @ spring street and LDS Liberal,
    Actually, judgmental comments speak poorly of those use them.

    No one is attacking the poor or the panhandler. Panhandling may be necessary when there is no other means of attaining food and shelter. But when our society makes sure there is food and shelter available for the homeless, you who give to the panhandlers are only providing for them the drugs and alcohol that keep them down. If that makes you feel good about yourselves, good for you. But as for me, I'll keep donating my money to the food bank, fast offerings and Salvation Army.

  • J Thompson SPRINGVILLE, UT
    Oct. 9, 2012 3:56 p.m.

    How about asking those who carry a sign saying that they will work for food, what kind of work they are willing to do? I've done that. I've offered work. I've offered food in exchange for work.

    Do you know what? They weren't interested. They didn't want to work.

    In the real world, we would call that "false advertising" or "bait and switch".

    If someone carries a sign offering to work for food, offer a job and see what he or she says. Don't be surprised if he or she spits in your face and calls you some obscene name.

    There are good people who need help and those of us who regularly give "fast offerings" and other charitable donations to help those who are needy. Hiding behind "freedom of speech" to get gain is despicable. It is the same as being a "preacher for hire".

    Good people do good things because they are good.

    Evil people prey upon good people.

    Give to the beggar if you know him or her, but I choose to give to the organization that cares for millions of beggars world-wide.

  • TRUTH Salt Lake City, UT
    Oct. 9, 2012 3:45 p.m.

    I think the DNEWS Editorial staff should do some real reporting.....they might find that many who carry a "will work for food" live better than those who do not and get welfare to boot!

  • spring street SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    Oct. 9, 2012 2:27 p.m.

    the comments disparaging the homeless, poor and panhandlers reflect very poorly on the people that post the comments not the people they are attacking.

  • Rifleman Salt Lake City, Utah
    Oct. 9, 2012 12:09 p.m.

    Re: freedomingood provo, Utah
    "Shurly Chick-fil-a and it's patrons understand and appreciate the first ammendment... for everyone."

    I rather doubt that Chick-Fil-A and it's patrons understand and appreciate the 1st Amendment any better than McDonalds or Wal-Mart. Not quite sure why you would try and make that connection unless it is a red herring.

  • RAB Bountiful, UT
    Oct. 9, 2012 11:48 a.m.

    Sorry, commentator, but panhandling is NOT a free speech issue. Hasn't anyone ever asked themselves why the Constitution does not address whether or not a citizen is allowed to steal or lie or cheat? It is because the Constitution was never intended to address what a citizen is allowed to do to another citizen. That's the business of local legislators. The Constitution merely ties the hands of the Federal Government. Free speech merely means that the Federal Government cannot punish you for speaking out against the government. THAT is free speech.

    Why can't you slander someone and istroy their reputation? Why can't you change a few words in someone's book and sell it as your own? Because your speaking is targeting and harming a citizen--not the government. Therefore it is not protected.

    Misguided progressives have successfully muddied the whole notion of free speech by re-inventing it as something that somehow protects everything anyone wants to say regardless of who it hurts.

    If panhandlers are not hurting anyone, then we should let them be. But if their behavior is hurting other people, stop pretending it is a free speech issue.

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    Oct. 9, 2012 9:51 a.m.

    I ALWAYS give whatever I have to those on the streets.
    I've taught my children to do so as well.

    If not cash, an apple or sandwich.
    No hand is left empty.

    "Because I have been given much."

    “Suppose that in this community there are ten beggars who beg from door to door for something to eat, and that nine of them are imposters who beg to escape work, and with an evil heart practice imposition upon the generous and sympathetic, and that only one of the ten who visit your doors is worthy of your bounty; which is best, to give food to the ten, to make sure of helping the truly needy one, or to repulse the ten because you do not know which one is the worthy one? You will all say, administer charitable gifts to the ten rather than turn away the only truly worthy and truly needy person among them. If you do this, it will make no difference in your blessings, whether you administer to worthy or unworthy persons, inasmuch as you give alms with a single eye to assist the truly needy.” ~ Brigham Young

    P.S. - Follow the Prophet

  • freedomingood provo, Utah
    Oct. 9, 2012 9:50 a.m.

    I say the panhandlers should go in front of Chick-fil-a while remaining on public property. Shurly Chick-fil-a and it's patrons understand and appreciate the first ammendment... for everyone.

  • JP71 Ogden, UT
    Oct. 9, 2012 9:49 a.m.

    I do not blame the author for the ignorance demonstrated in this article because in truth most people are ignorant of the truth about most panhandlers. Most panhandling is a form of low level organized crime. I was a police officer and dealt with panhandlers on a regular basis. Have you ever wondered why a panhandler is in the same place and almost no one else ever stands at that location? It is because panhandling locations are controlled territory by a boss or pimp. The panhandler will work a corner for the day then give a percentage of the money they got to the pimp. I once saw a female panhandler show up to her regular location and there was another male panhandler there panhandling. The female panhandler got on her cell phone and called her pimp. A few minutes later the pimp showed up in a very nice car and physically moved the male panhandler. Not all panhandlers do this but you can bet that the panhandlers in the good locations with high pedestrian traffic definitely are. If you want to give to the poor give to a charity or a church that assist the poor.

  • Hellooo Salt Lake City, UT
    Oct. 9, 2012 9:34 a.m.

    I really love how the right to free speech has be come the right to use public property for actions like begging. What an amazing illogical extension of the Bill of Rights. Certainly, those that wrote the first 10 amendments did not vote for laws that allowed such activities in their public square. But, as the article states this is how the person earns his living. Nice career choice I guess in the Obama economy.

  • KDave Moab, UT
    Oct. 9, 2012 9:29 a.m.

    A study has shown that the average panhandler makes $190 a day. I doubt they pay taxes on it.

  • mornixuur Layton, UT
    Oct. 9, 2012 9:23 a.m.

    "There is an issue of freedom from aggressive panhandlers."

    Carrying a sign does not make one aggressive. You're trying to introduce an issue here which is not really relevant.

    If you do get bothered by someone "aggressive" I guess you can always walk away, or call a cop if it rises to assualt or disturbing the peace. I find your concern spurious though, given the amount of time I spend downtown. Most panhandlers don't even talk, they just hold their signs. When they do verbalize a request, I tell them I am not carrying cash, and walk on. End of conversation. I'm not sure where you hang out.

  • Hemlock Salt Lake City, UT
    Oct. 9, 2012 8:40 a.m.

    Driving by a certain home improvement store one often sees Hispanic men looking for work, not panhandling. The contrast is graphic. Freedom of speech is not an issue, it's protected by the Constitution. There is an issue of freedom from aggressive panhandlers.

  • Danny Chipman Lehi, UT
    Oct. 9, 2012 8:36 a.m.

    Panhandlers are welcome to exercise their right to free speech, but if that right extends to banging on my car window demanding money or attention (not sure if it was this guy or another in the news this week doing just that), then it becomes a safety issue and should not be tolerated. Cities have the right to prohibit "aggressive" panhandling.

  • Rifleman Salt Lake City, Utah
    Oct. 9, 2012 8:17 a.m.

    The author says "many people don't want to be reminded that poverty exists, or that they have a moral responsibility to do something about it."

    No, most people want to help the truly deserving. That is what Inner City Missions are all about - helping the poor and needy.

    What we don't like is giving money to able bodied people who find it easier to beg for money than work for it. A classic example are those who sell their food stamps for drugs then come looking for a handout.

  • sportsfan21 OREM, UT
    Oct. 9, 2012 8:07 a.m.

    I agree completely. Just because someone is poor and dirty doesn't disqualify them from practicing their right to free speech.

    On another note, I often hear people respond to this question by saying that these people should get a job. That's their opinion and they are free to it, and personally I would rather be employed than panhandle, but those on the streets shouldn't be forced to fit into our ideas of what normal is. Interestingly enough, these people are offering a service which is in demand. When people give them money, the people feel good about themselves. Whether this is an honest feeling or a false one is a matter of opinion, but judging by the fact that panhandlers survive, it must be profitable. So, the next time you see a panhandler, I would recommend that you think of them as someone selling an easy opportunity for people to give a few bucks and feel better about themselves. Then you are free to say "I'm personally not interested in that product," and continue with your day. Good luck to everyone in whatever business you're pursuing.

  • Darrel Eagle Mountain, UT
    Oct. 9, 2012 7:30 a.m.

    While I abhor the idea that anyone would need to panhandle to survive, I have never thought of it as someone exercising their right to free speech. Completely changed my outlook on the entire matter.

    Thanks Deseret News.