The Georgia Department of Transportation has denied the application of a Ku Klux Klan group to join the state’s Adopt A Highway program. The denial of the International Keystone Knights of the KKK to adopt part of Route 515 in the Appalachian Mountains raises some serious first amendment questions. While popular, the denial could could face a successful challenge under existing case law.
In a statement Tuesday, the agency seemed to go out of its way to say that it rejected the application out of opposition to the group’s beliefs. The letter of denial from Department of Transportation Commissioner Keith Golden said that “promoting an organization with a history of inciting civil disturbance and social unrest would present a grave concern.” It further said that allowing the group to take care of a stretch of highway and could “have the potential to negatively impact the quality of life” of people in the county and state. It added that “encountering signage and members of the KKK along a roadway would create a definite distraction to motorists.”
What is curious is that the state added, almost as an aside, that the designated stretch was not eligible for adoption because its posted speed limit exceeds the program maximum of 55 mph. Unless the state has allowed other groups to adopt such segments, that would appear a threshold barrier to the adoption. However, it would only mean that the group would have to adopt a different segment, which the state appears to say will not happen. State Rep. Tyrone Brooks, head of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials, said that the application even being considered was offensive.
Harley Hanson, the “exalted cyclops” of the Klan’s “Realm of Georgia,” filed the application on behalf of the International Keystone Knights of the KKK in Union County. He has a free speech claim in light of the decision. The Supreme Court has rejected efforts to discriminate on the basis of a group’s beliefs or values in terms of government benefits. It is not enough to simply say that there is no “right” to such benefits:
[E]ven though a person has no “right” to a valuable governmental benefit and even though the government may deny him the benefit for any number of reasons, there are some reasons upon which the government may not rely. It may not deny a benefit to a person on a basis that infringes his constitutionally protected interests—especially, his interest in freedom of speech. For if the government could deny a benefit to a person because of his constitutionally protected speech or associations, his exercise of those freedoms would in effect be penalized and inhibited. This would allow the government to “produce a result which [it] could not command directly.” Such interference with constitutional rights is impermissible.
Perry v. Sindermann, 408 U.S. 593, 597 (1972) (quoting Speiser v. Randall, 357 U.S. 513, 526 (1958).
The case is similar to Cuffley v. Mickes, where the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit upheld a lower court ruling in favor of the KKK seeking to participate in an Adopt-a-Highway program. The state had renamed a highway after Rosa Parks and then banned hate groups from participating. Notably, the court observed that the state regularly allows for groups that do not meet its criteria to still participate in the program. The court found such objections to be “pretextual” and held
The State’s purported reasons for denying the Klan’s application are so obviously unreasonable and pretextual that, in the end, we are left only with the admitted reason the State was motivated to so carefully scrutinize the Klan’s application as an explanation for the denial: that the State disagrees with the Klan’s beliefs and advocacy. Nevertheless, the First Amendment protects everyone, even those with viewpoints as thoroughly obnoxious as those of the Klan, from viewpoint-based discrimination by the State.
Here is that decision: 992334P
I share the same view of the KKK as most Americans. My mother and her family of coal miners went to sleep on many nights in Ohio watching a burning cross on a hill near Yorkville, Ohio. It was a message from the local clan that the Italians were not welcomed in the area. However, there is a more important principle of free speech to protect here — a value that transcends the message of racial superiority of the KKK. Georgia has a long and painful history with the KKK, but that cannot excuse its use of content-based discrimination against the group in my view. What do you think?
41 thoughts on “Georgia Bars KKK From Adopting-A-Highway”
I have to use corrective lenses, but my corrected vision is better than 20/20.
Or can we find the exact source of this article please? That sounds very interesting. Sincerely,
The source of the article is hidden. You have to figure that out for yourself. Nobody will tell you where the source of the article is.
Let them have their highway. Telling them they can’t have it is exactly what they want. It’s called publicity. Free advertising.
Give them their highway, and make sure they do it properly.
Hypothetical, if he had the money and were currently alive and out of prison, should TImothy McVeigh be allowed to adopt a stretch of land in Oklahoma?
I dont think they should be allowed to adopt it. Its more than just spreading a hateful message. The KKK have killed people in mass. Maybe its been a while but they’re known and remembered best for hanging blacks from trees and burning them at the stake. Do you think the Nazi’s should be allowed to adopt a highway in an area with a jewish population? If a black man is driving on a highway with a bunch of hoods posted on posters saying this stretch of land belongs to the Klan, I doubt his first thought is going to be on driving safely, much less than feeling welcome.
If your claim to fame is attempted genocide you should be barred from doing anything to make it look like you have current ownership of a public region. While that isn’t exactly what adopting a highway is, and I’m all for the KKK or any other hate group’s ability to speak freely, this seems to me a little different from a simple denial of first amendment rights. Its ironic considering how long the KKK pushed and fought for the denial of the rights of others in this country. The south is trying to separate itself from the legacy of Jim Crow etc, which is great.
h/t jbou on Daily Kos
Local church has a stretch of road here. I think it’s a town road. TPTB didn’t have an adopt a highway program. They decided to approve the church b/c they knew that the church would be out picking up the trash anyway and it would be best to support the effort and have the signs up so people would be a bit more careful as they drove by. They picked up many bags of litter. No prosthelytizing, just a cleaned up road.
I think the Klan should be able to sign up for this but I’m having a problem with finding their presence anywhere to be acceptable.
Ken1776, I’d let them marry, but never have children.
KKK members should not be allowed to get married.
BarkinDog; “If we have a list of terrorist organizations why is the Klan not on there with the likes of al qaeda?”
My question too. How could the not be?
I always wonder why people aren’t embarrassed about what they should obviously be embarrassed by. Just astonishing to me.
The State cannot adopt a religion, promote a religion, or allow a religion to promote itself along my public highway. Prayer in school is not ok. These religious demons worship the Cross and worship their right to kill.
Pete, I can think of several roadways in the ‘hood that they could have. I am sure the local gangbangers will greet them with open arms. So to speak.
let them have one mile of MLK blvd in atlanta. the local residents won’t mind them coming by to pick up trash on the side of the road.
BD, I don’t think that dog will hunt. There is nothing to keep a local church, temple or mosque from adopting a stretch of highway. The state is not establishing a religion, but acknowledging by signage who is volunteering to pick up the trash. However, it is embarrassing to have signage about the KKK. The authorities would just as soon the driving public not know they have a local Klan chapter in the county.
The state would be subject to a suit by me if I lived in Georgia. The offense is that they are promoting and establishing a religion on the public dole. The Klan is defintely a religion. The carry crosses and preach the death of black people in God’s name. I was being facetious above when I set forth the prongs of the First Amendment and thought that someone would think to raise the establishment Klaus which is against the Klan and its Klauses.
I would let them adopt highways but not kids.
union county ga.’s unofficial motto is: “black man don’t let the sun set on you in union county”.. so far as i know there are no blacks in blairsville or is surrounds in union county. i built an elan natural waters plant there in the late 1990’s .. i distinctly remember a crew of black floor masons sent to coat the floors in the production areas of the plant had to leave because no one would rent them a place to stay … just some background for y’all …
The KKK is similar, yet worse than the Sicilian Mafia. Similar in that it murders and intimidates, worse because the Mafia does not murder someone on the basis of their appearance, unless of course one appears to be cutting in on their territory. I am sure that the crime families governed by guys locked up in the prison system in New York would like to inhance their family reputations by putting some warm bodies out on the highways to pick up litter–warm bodies that are not part of the prison detail. The Eighth Circuit was wrong in several ways but let us have Turley and others on this blog explain just which prongs of the First Amendment are implicated. Is it the religioun prong? Citizens right to petition the government for redress of grievances? Free expression prong? There certainly is no adoption prong of the First Amendment– or is there?
Questions arise. Can the Klan members wear their hoods and hide their faces while picking up the litter? Can they stand on the side of the highway and hold up signs advertising their views on bi-racial marriage? Can they carry hangman’s nooses and scare the kids? Can they have mock lynchings with fake bodies who look like President Obama, like that minister from that bumfuk church? Can they ask the passersby to burn their neighbors home if the neighbor is black? Is the Cross permissible since it is an expression of religion in their minds? Can they promote a religion on a highway which would then be the public promotion of a religion? Since Christianity promotes racism are they entitled to free expression of such statements of keep the Ni—-rs out of our schools?
Is it ok to just have the hoodies out there with their crosses with no other message. Marshall McLuren (sp) would have a field day.
If the Klan can do it how about al qaeda? What is the difference between the Klan and al qaeda? They each promote terrorism. They each will kill you for your mere race or ethnicity.
If we have a list of terrorist organizations why is the Klan not on there with the likes of al qaeda? Is it because JoeBob is a citizen?
What if the Klan incorporates? Do the hoodies have free speech rights under the Citizens United case. What would Scalia’s view be on the rights of the Klan or the rights of the Sicilian Mafia to exercise free speech or exercise religion on the highways? What would the original intent of the original Framers of the Origional Text of the Origional Constitution be Mr. Justice Scalia?
Inquiring minds want to know. There are a lot of groups that only hate a little and dont hate as much as they hated in the past. So the current version of the Klan is a toned down version of the Klan of old. These Klan members really have not lynched anyone in a decade although their daddies did and all they want to do is use the N word when you drive by to remind you that you still live in America— Their America. And dont stop at the rest area in that part of the highway if you are African American, Chinese, Muslim, Jewish, or a Democrat. Yes my name is Mitt Romney and I approve this message.
The John Birch Society sponsors a stretch of road near Lake Anna in Virginia. It’s not unusual. I’m impressed at the restraint given the trogs who currently run Georgia.
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