After a local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan was denied its application to be part of Georgia’s adopt-a-highway program, the group is turning to an unlikely potential ally — the American Civil Liberties Union. It seems the ACLU is slightly uneasy about helping the KKK, but not because of the group’s beliefs. The ACLU isn’t sure if the KKK’s freedom of speech has been violated or not.
“We are considering next steps and whether or not we will support the group,” said Debbie Seagraves, executive director for the ACLU of Georgia, reports CNN. “We know this is unpopular,” she added.
If the ACLU decides to help the KKK it will be based on legal precedent. It’s happened before in another case in Missouri, where a court ruled that the state had discriminated against the KKK when it tried to participate in a program that was supposed to be open to any group.
“It’s clear and understandable that the message of the KKK is offensive and hurtful to many people, but when you cede the power to the state to decide whose speech is objectionable, we give it up,” Seagraves said.
The International Keystone Knights of the KKK wants to adopt a part of Georgia State Route 515 in Union County to clean it up, and filed an application on May 21. It was rejected in its bid earlier this week, with the state’s Department of Transportation saying it was because officials determined the mountain roadway wasn’t a safe place for cleanup volunteers to work.
“The impact of erecting a sign naming an organization which has a long-rooted history of civil disturbance would cause a significant public concern,” he wrote. “Impacts include safety of the traveling public, potential social unrest, driver distraction or interference with the flow of traffic.”
Even though the ACLU hasn’t taken on the case yet, Seagraves pointed out a few problems with the DOT’s reasoning: if the speed limit is the problem, the program is supposed to find another, safer place to adopt. And, the state can’t deny speech just because of what others might do in reaction.