When Life Gives You Lemons…

…make lemonade – though selling said lemonade may land you in jail if you don’t have government permission; and by “you” I’m including your children.

On July 29, 2010 at the “Last Thursday” monthly art fair in Northeast Portland, Oregon Julie Murphy a 7 year old girl had her lemonade stand shut down and her mother threatened with a $500 fine for failing to get a $120 temporary restaurant license. After seeing what happened to young Julie “The Lemonade Revolt!” was born and many vendors at the August “Last Thursday” event gave away lemonade.

Since then children have had lemonade stands shut down across the country. One of Alex’s Lemonade Stands was shut down in PhiladelphiaAlex’s Lemonade was founded by little Alex Scott who set up a “lemonade stand to raise money to find a cure for kids with cancer–while bravely battling her own” – for failing to have a permit to operate, or a hand-washing station.

A lemonade stand was shut down after a Montgomery County, Maryland inspector said the children needed a vendors’ license to run the stand. The kids set up their lemonade stand outside of the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland, where the U.S. Open golf tournament has been taking place and planned to send 50 percent their profits to a charity that fights pediatric cancer. Not only did the County Inspector shut down the kids’ lemonade stand, they ended up fining the parents $500.

In Coralville, Iowa police shut down 4-year-old Abigail Krstinger’s lemonade stand after it had been up for half an hour for failing to get a $400 vendors permit. At least two other lemonade stands were shut down by Coralville Police when the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Race Across Iowa came to town.

Police in Georgia told Girl Scout Troop 7984 to “pack up” and get a peddlers permit. The Mayor apologized and to make amends – no, he didn’t waive the ordinance requiring a peddlers permit – he offered the girls a pizza party and tour of the Police Department.

Last November, New Castle, New York Councilman Michael Wolfensohn called police when a pair of 13 year old boys were selling brownies and cupcakes. In Appleton, Wisconsin the City Council passed an ordinance preventing vendors from selling products within a two-block radius of local events. Victims of this ordinance include Lydia Coenen and her next door neighbor who live 1 block from Pierce Park which hosts Appleton’s Old Car Show. Lydia along with her mother Margi Mann have been selling lemonade for at least 6 years as their neighbors sell cookies during the car show, however this year they weren’t allowed to sell their cookies and lemonade – though authorities DID allow them to give away the treats and sympathetic patrons were also allowed to leave tips.

In response the this “crack down” of lemonade stands – something that was once a staple of American life – protesters around the country were encouraged to set-up lemonade stands of their own. Robert Fernandes came up with the idea for Lemonade Freedom Day and wrote, “Recently, we have seen many news reports of lemonade stands being shut down by police and other government workers. When kids sell things, such as lemonade, they… are participating in free and voluntary trade with willing participants. Selling lemonade is not a crime.” It is estimated that nearly 100 lemonade stands were set up across the country, with at least 20 in northern California, some of the stands barely broke even while others brought in upwards of $100. In the case of the lemonade stand set up on the lawn of Capitol Hill in DC, Lemonade Freedom Day turned into Lemonade Incarceration Day for 3 activists who were charged with vending without a license, unlawful conduct, and refusing to obey. The charge of “vending without a permit” seems factitious since the NPS rules (for protest permit holders) state “No items may be sold or offered for sale except for books, newspapers, leaflets, pamphlets, buttons, and bumper stickers which contain a message related to your demonstration or special event. No merchandise may be sold or offered for sale.” It seems to me, even IF they had a permit – they would not have been allowed to sale lemonade.

Augustine of Hippo wrote, “an unjust law is no law at all.” The US Supreme Court has even recognized, “statutes passed against the plain and obvious principles of common right and common reason are null and void.”

The next time you are faced with the decision of obeying a law that you believe to be unjust (any law that uses the force of government to coerce behavior that doesn’t violate another’s rights), remember that no one has any moral obligation to obey an unjust law!