Should White Supremacy Group’s Request to Adopt-A-Highway Be Rejected?
The Ku Klux Klan has asked to join the Adopt-A-Highway program in Georgia. The white supremacy group filed a request to sponsor a stretch of land in the Appalachian Mountains. Like many states that have this cleanup program, Georgia puts a sign along the highway thanking its contributors. The State Department of Transportation is currently reviewing the KKK’s application, but there are calls by state legislators to reject the group’s request. Rep. Tyrone Brooks said, “It should be denied just as we would deny the request from any other hate group.”
In 2000, Missouri lost a similar fight against KKK members after a federal appeals court ruled that under the First Amendment, a state cannot deny an Adopt-A-Highway application because official disagree with the groups views. Judge Andrew Napolitano argued on Studio B that while they are a hate group that would “reject me, reject a lot of people watching the show … but hate speech is protected in the United States of America. The Supreme Court has ruled that way.”
If Georgia denies the application, the state could open itself up to a hefty legal battle.
Judge Napolitano noted that if this were a privately owned highway, the circumstances would be different because owners would have the right to reject anyone they wanted. Criminal defense attorney Mercedes Colwin said that if the state accepts the application and allows the sign to go up, the program may face fallout if other businesses choose not to join the program because they don’t want their sign to be in close proximity to the KKK’s.
The 34-year-old man who filed the application and refers to himself as the exalted cyclops of the Klan’s Realm of Georgia, told the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution “We just want to clean up the doggone road … We’re not going to be out there in robes.” Shepard Smith pointed out that they very well could be since there isn’t a dress code for the Adopt-A-Highway program.
Georgia’s Adopt-A-Highway guidelines broadly dictate that “any civic-minded organization, business, individual, family, city, county, state, or federal agency is welcome to volunteer.” So couldn’t they just change the guidelines?
Judge Napolitano said yes they can change the rules but he maintained that “as hateful and reprehensible” as the group’s views are, it would be very difficult for the state to reject the KKK without opening themselves up to further litigation. He explained that it opens up the state to reject other groups because of their views, such as right to life organizations.
Colwin took a stand against the judge by pointing out that the KKK has a history of violence going back decades. Therefore, Georgia can deem it to be a public safety issue if they promote a group that has committed violence against minorities. Judge Napolitano agreed to an extent, saying, “This is a wonderful argument which ought to be made because this group should be drive out of town by the force of opinion, not by the force of law.”