The state of Georgia’s highest court will determine whether the Ku Klux Klan has the right to participate in the Adopt-a-Highway program in what has become a heated dispute concerning the First Amendment. The first oral arguments in the case were made on Monday, marking the beginning of a legal battle that is expected to stretch on for months.
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The American Civil Liberties Union has joined forces with the white supremacist group, claiming that the Georgia Department of Transportation’s efforts to block the Klan from joining the program violates their constitutional rights.
“The state denied the application, not because of safety hazard or some other compelling government interest, but because the state disagrees with what the KKK represents,” Georgia ACLU executive director Maya Dillard Smith told FoxNews.com. “It is precisely this kind of government action the Constitution prohibits.”
“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,” she added, predicting that people would have a “visceral reaction” to the case.
Georgia becomes the latest state to engage in a high-profile battle surrounding the Adopt-a-Highway program. Missouri tried to block the Klan from adopting a half-mile stretch of highway in 1994, arguing that the state would violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964 if it allowed the racially selective group to join. However, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, paving the way for the Klan to join the program; they were later kicked out for allegedly not picking up enough garbage.
In response to the controversy, GDOT has temporarily stopped accepting Adopt-a-Highway applications.