KKK AP Photo

KKK Member (Photo: Aimee Obidzinski, AP)

The Georgia Supreme Court this week was the site of a pitched battle between the Ku Klux Klan and the state over the latter’s refusal to allow the White supremacist group to participate in the popular Adopt-a-Highway program.

The International Keystone Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, backed by the ACLU Foundation of Georgia, filed the lawsuit, claiming the group’s constitutional right to free speech was being violated.

“The fundamental right to free speech is not limited to only those we agree with or groups that are inoffensive. The government cannot pick or choose who is protected by the Constitution,” said Debbie Seagraves, executive director of the ACLU Foundation of Georgia, in a statement at the time the initial complaint was filed. “There will always be speech and groups conveying hateful messages that are distasteful to some. That is why the First Amendment protects free speech for all.”

But the Georgia Department of Transportation has stood by its decision, saying it was in the best interest of the public.


Knighthawk (from left), April Hanson and her husband Harley Hanson, members of the International Keystone Knights Realm of Georgia, perform a traditional Klan salute along the portion of highway they want to adopt allowing them to put up a sign and do litter removal near Blairsville on Sunday, June 10, 2012. (CURTIS COMPTON/AP)

In May 2012, April Chambers and Harley Hanson, members of the International Keystone Knights of the KKK, submitted an application to participate in the Adopt-a-Highway program and remove trash along a portion of State Route 515. In their application, they requested that “Georgia IKK Ku Klux Klan” be the name listed on the signs that would be placed along both sides of the highway.

On June 12, 2012, the pair received a letter from GDOT denying their application.

“Maintaining the safety of our roadways is this Department’s foremost mission. Encountering signage and members of the KKK along a roadway would create a definite distraction to motorists,” the letter read in part. “Further, promoting an organization with a history of inciting civil disturbance and social unrest would present a grave concern to the Department.”


(Screengrab from cbs news report)

A lower court decision by Judge Shawn LaGrua, however, denied the state’s claim to sovereign immunity, a decision they then appealed.

Despite GDOT’s claims of serving the public interest, its decision was based on its disagreement with what the KKK represents, lawyers for the group said. And if that group’s right to free speech is infringed upon, it will create a slippery legal slope.

“What may seem as chipping away only at the KKK’s free speech right, will, in fact, open Pandora’s box and create legal precedent that justifies curtailing the free speech rights of religious evangelicals, abortion protestors and even Black Lives Matter supporters and opponents,” Maya Dillard Smith, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia, told FoxNews.com.

A decision is not expected for at least two months. Meanwhile, GDOT has suspended Adopt-a-Highway applications.