By David Tulis
A Lawrenceburg, Tenn., man who has a ministry playing gospel music at local nursing homes on Sundays went on trial in circuit court Tuesday in a case that threatens the state’s rickety driver license system if he loses and it goes up on appeal.
Charged with driving on a suspended driver license, “the fiddle man” Arthur Hirsch, 65, is on trial before Judge Stella Hargrove and argues that he is exercising a free God-given right to travel on the public highways, and is not engaged in commerce which ostensibly requires a privilege license.
Mr. Hirsch makes never-heard constitutional arguments skeptical of the state’s executive branch and its claim of administrative jurisdiction over 100 percent of highway use, an exercise of power largely upheld by the judiciary.
Still, courts have made clear the relationship between the individual and the state are equitable. That means it is controlled by contract and agreement — by the rules of equity. Mr. Hirsch refuses to enter such a commercial relationship with the state.
He exercises the same rights Tennesseans held up through 1936 prior to passage of the Uniform Classified and Commercial Driver License Act in 1937, he avers.
The license application and “must show on demand” portions of this law are worded carefully to not offend the right to travel, he argues. The vehicle rules apply to every person who voluntarily applies for a commercial privilege license, according to T.C.A. 55-50-301, not to those traveling privately. The system is refreshingly voluntary, he says, if only law enforcement would respect the people’s rights.
The prosecution counters that he no right to travel by car, that even constitutionally protected rights must bow to administrative taxable privileges statutes and sheer habit. Mr. Hirsch is motivated by a desire to glorify God and to be among “the free people of Tennessee” (constitution Article 1, section 24). With “unalienable rights” at stake, Mr. Hirsch vows a fight.
— Used by permission of Lawrenceburg Advocate, where this essay first appeared Dec. 23, 2015.
David Tulis covers local economy and free markets for AM 1240 Hot News Talk Radio in Chattanooga.