EDITORIAL: Time to change silly law that requires good moral character for cosmetologists

York Dispatch
Courtney Haveman and Amanda Spillane speak with members of the media during a news conference in view of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. Haveman and Spillane, who were denied licenses to work as estheticians as a result of running afoul of a state good moral character rule, due to past drug-related convictions, are challenging the regulation in a lawsuit. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
  • To become a cosmetologist in Pennsylvania, you must show good moral character.
  • Two women are challenging that law, claiming it's unfair and unconstitutional.
  • The two women have minor criminal records, but say they are now trying to change their lives.

Most Americans believe in second chances.

They believe in forgiveness, especially for those who have owned up to their mistakes and are making concerted efforts to get their lives back on track.

They believe that opportunity should belong to everyone — even those who have strayed from the straight and narrow path.

It’s part of our generous nature.

It’s also simple common sense.

We all make mistakes, and except for the most egregious crimes, we all deserve forgiveness and second chances.

The law, however, is not always as forgiving or understanding.

When the law and common sense butt heads, it’s time to change the law.

One such law is the Pennsylvania regulation that requires good moral character for cosmetologists.

Suit: Drop 'good moral character' cosmetologist requirement

As a recent Associated Press story recently asked: “Is good moral character required to wax eyebrows and give facials?”

The answer should be a resounding “no.”

Challenging the law: That’s why we fully support Courtney Haveman and Amanda Spillane in their lawsuit claiming the state law is unfair and unconstitutional.

Both Haveman and Spillane admit they’ve made mistakes. Both women suffered from past addictions, which led to criminal records for relatively minor offenses. Both women, however, said they are now clean and sober and are trying hard to change their lives.

Both women were attempting to become cosmetologists, only to run head on into the state morals requirement. 

Public not in danger: According to the AP story, under the Pennsylvania Constitution, laws prohibiting people from work must actually protect the public.

Morals requirements might make sense for folks in positions that actually protect the public, such as police officers.

Preventing the two women in question from becoming cosmetologists hardly protects the public. It's hard to imagine how Haveman and Spillane waxing eyebrows and giving facials endangers the public.

It’s just silly, especially when you consider there's not a similar requirement for barbers.

And it not just cosmetologists who are unfairly being punished. There are also morals requirements for landscape architects and poultry technicians, among other positions.

Don't prevent people from working: Preventing people with criminal records from working only makes it more likely they'll return to a life of crime. In the long run, that becomes a much more expensive proposition for every Pennsylvania taxpayer.

Would you rather pay to incarcerate someone, or have that same person making an honest living and paying taxes?

The answer is obvious.

Commission recommendations: Gov. Tom Wolf, back in 2017, commissioned a review of occupational board requirements and the department of state’s findings were released in June.

Among the findings was that good moral character is “loosely defined” and that “there is potential for it to be applied unevenly.”

The review recommended that the administration examine the impact of criminal history bans and good moral character requirements.

Well, it’s past time to simply examine those requirements. It’s time to change those requirements.

Time to change law: If the Wolf administration and the Legislature don't want to tackle that job, then here’s hoping the courts will do it for them by ruling in favor of Haveman and Spillane.

Those two women are trying their best to change their lives and earn a decent living.

They deserve a second chance.

A silly state morals requirement is standing in their way.

It’s time to change the law.