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Supreme Court Rules KKK Can 'Adopt a Highway'
Part 1: ACLU sides with Klan in this case
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A strange alliance? Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union siding with lawyers from the Ku Klux Klan? Not only did the alliance exist, it prevailed on March 5, 2001 as the US Supreme Court without comment or dissent allowed the Klan to participate in a Missouri "Adopt-A-Highway" program.

Missouri's Adopt-A-Highway program installs signs acknowledging the efforts of volunteer groups agreeing to pick up litter along designated stretches of major highways. 

The State of Missouri had appealed that it could deny the Klan's application to participate in the program without violating the group's free-speech rights under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In a separate, but related action, the court denied an appeal from the U.S. Department of Justice based on the potential violation of federal civil rights laws against allowing racist organizations to participate in programs sponsored by states that receive federal funds. Missouri, like all states, receives federal assistance for highway construction and maintenance.

The Supreme Court's action denied Missouri's writ of certiorari asking the court to consider the case.

The Klan applied to in 1994 to perform "Adopt-A-Highway" duties along a one-half mile section of Interstate 55, a route used for bussing St. Louis area black students to county schools under a court-ordered desegregation program.

Pointing to other states that had denied similar Klan requests, Missouri rejected the application. Missouri further cited the Klan's exclusionary "Aryans-only" membership policy, past violations of federal anti-discrimination laws and history of violent acts against individuals from racial minorities.

When the Klan sued, Senior U.S. District Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh in St. Louis ruled in their favor, finding that, "undisputed facts conclusively demonstrate that the state unconstitutionally denied the Klan's application based on the Klan's views." 

Missouri's subsequent appeal to the US Supreme Court was joined by 28 other states arguing that a highway sign acknowledging the Klan, "implies a message of acceptance, a message that the state regards the Klan as a valuable member of society just like the Rotary Club or the Jaycees who have adopted the next stretch of highway down the road."

The Klan was represented before the Supreme Court by attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union, who argued that the First Amendment protected all, even the Ku Klux Klan "against those who would misuse government power to suppress political dissidents."

The case is Yarnell v. Cuffley, 00-289 (writ of certiorari denied)

 

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