It initially appeared that the Georgia Department of Transportation had opened a huge can of worms when it denied a local Ku Klux Klan's chapter's application to "adopt" a stretch of highway in the far northern end of the state. After all, a similar case in Missouri ended with a federal appeals court telling the state that it could not turn down applications based on a group's particular viewpoint. So it looked like that, as laudable as the Georgia DOT's action was, it may not have had a legally defensible reason to make this move.
Well, it turns out that it may have had an out after all. According to the Georgia DOT's official release announcing the denial, the application would have been denied no matter who made it. The Klansmen wanted to adopt a stretch of highway in Union County, on the North Carolina border. Seems that the speed limit on that road is higher than the program allows.
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. Also, the section of roadway requested is ineligible for adoption due to its posted speed limit exceeding the program maximum of 55 mph.The Klansmen wanted to adopt a portion of State Route 515. According to a letter state transportation commissioner Keith Golden sent to chapter secretary April Chambers, that highway has a speed limit of 65 mph, 10 miles over the program's upper limit. Gee, shouldn't that have been something the Klansmen should have checked out before sending in the forms?
The Klansmen have already made noises about taking this to court. But if the Georgia DOT is basing this on safety concerns that apply to ALL perspective applicants, it doesn't look like such a suit is going anywhere.
There had been some talk that Georgia might end the program altogether rather than let a hate group take part. But it sounds like it won't go that far, thankfully.