Yesterday, word got out that a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan wanted to "adopt" a stretch of highway in far northern Georgia, along the North Carolina border. Well, earlier today, an official with the state Department of Transportation told CNN that the application will be denied.
The state official did not want to be named because the official was not authorized to speak on the record.As laudable as this may be on paper, the Georgia DOT may have just opened a legal can of worms. It may not have a defensible reason to reject the request. Back in 1994, the Missouri DOT turned down a request by a KKK chapter to adopt a stretch of I-55 south of St. Louis. A federal appeals court sided with the KKK, saying that a group's viewpoint was not a valid reason to keep a group out of the program--a decision that SCOTUS refused to review. However, when the Klansmen failed to actually clean the highway, they got the boot. And in a final bit of irony, that highway is now named after Rosa Parks.
The Klan chapter wanted to clean a stretch of highway in Union County, Georgia, according to paperwork obtained by CNN on Monday.
The application, which sought state approval for cleaning up a one-mile portion of a Georgia State Route 515 in the Appalachian Mountains, was filed by the International Keystone Knights of the KKK on May 21.
The DOT was in talks with the state attorney general's office yesterday, so it'll be interesting to hear the rationale behind the rejection. But unless the DOT's got a really good explanation, this black North Carolinian may find himself in the odd position of siding with the Klan. After all, unless the DOT has some pretty solid ground, this could open the door for gay groups and others who aren't as unsavory as the KKK to get turned down.
2:42 PM PT: VClib mentions a possible out for the Georgia DOT--if the KKK is on an official list of terrorist organizations, the state might be able to prevail in the inevitable legal battle.
3:27 PM PT: The Georgia DOT has issued its formal rejection, per patchmo13 in the comments. It says that seeing KKK signage, as well as Klansmen along the highway, could potentially distract motorists. It also argues that letting an organization with "a history of inciting civil disturbance and civil unrest" wouldn't be in the DOT's best interest.