KKK Can't Adopt a Highway in Georgia

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on June 13, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The next time you drive through Georgia you might see an Adopt a Highway sign from your friendly local KKK. A local chapter in Northern Georgia applied to adopt a stretch of highway as part of the state's partnership with private organizations to beautify stretches of state highway.

Georgia denied the application, but that doesn't mean they'll be able to stop the KKK.

Time to introduce the exalted cyclops of the Klan's Realm of Georgia.

Harley Hanson is said exalted cyclops, and he says he will sue and seek help from the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU previously assisted another Klan group on a similar case in Missouri.

In 2004 the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a state cannot deny the KKK from Adopting a Highway. Some media reports have said that the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the KKK on this issue. That's not entirely accurate.

The Supreme Court merely declined to take the case. So the Eighth Circuit's decision still stands but is not binding on the Eleventh Circuit, which has jurisdiction over Georgia.

Georgia's Adopt a Highway allows a very broad range of groups to participate in the Adopt a Highway program so courts will likely draw a parallel to the Missouri case.

Denying the KKK from participating is effectively silencing them because of what the KKK stands for. While the KKK's message may not necessarily be an inclusive one, they are still protected by the First Amendment which prevents a state from censoring a group based on their beliefs.

Georgia knows that it's in for a long legal battle but that didn't discourage them from denying the KKK application to Adopt a Highway. In this case it seems that principles trump legal concerns.

"If the state would allow them to plant their name on one of its public highways in the home of Martin Luther King Jr. and Jimmy Carter, we would have to fight it with all of the resources at our disposal... If we lose, we would ask the state to abolish the program. It's not worth it," State Rep. Tyrone Brooks, president of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials told the Associated Press.

Perhaps Georgia should take a leaf out of Missouri's book in dealing with this situation. When forced to allow the KKK to adopt a highway, Missouri renamed that particular stretch of road after Rosa Parks. A highway adopted by a Neo-Nazi group a few years later was renamed after Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.

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