Knighthawk (from left), April Hanson and her husband Harley Hanson, members of the International Keystone Knights Realm of Georgia, perform a traditional Klan salute along the portion of highway they want to adopt allowing them to put up a sign and do litter removal near Blairsville on Sunday, June 10, 2012. Harley Hanson, the Exalted Cyclops of the group, said "how can you say beautiful mountains and streams if trash is piled up on the side of the road."
By Ernie Suggs
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Hoping that every Georgian has the right to free speech – even when it is uncomfortable to some – the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against the state on behalf of the Ku Klux Klan.
The Klan is suing the state after it was denied an opportunity to participate in the Adopt-A-Highway program. The group is seeking an injunction that would allow them to participate in the program.
The lawsuit, filed this week in Fulton County Superior Court, argues that the state has “set up criteria for qualification for the Adopt-A-Highway program that are unconstitutionally vague and…have established no process for appeal of denial to an application.”
In June, an application to participate in the program was filed by Harley Hanson, who calls himself the exalted cyclops of the Georgia Realm of the International Keystone Knights of the KKK, and his wife.
The couple had applied on May 21 and were hoping to get a stretch of highway in Union County near the Blue Ridge Mountains. Hanson listed the group’s address in Blairsville, where the road was, but one of the arguments that town officials made is that Hanson actually lived in nearby Morganton, which is in Fannin County.
In rejecting the Klan, which has a history of violence against blacks and minority groups, DOT said the highway cleanup program was open only to “civic-minded organization in good standing.”
Debbie Seagraves, executive director for the ACLU of Georgia, who in June said her organization was considering filing a lawsuit, could not be reached Thursday night. Previously, she told the AJC that while she does not agree with what the KKK stands for, she wants to protect their right to free speech.
The ACLU’s lawsuit might have precedent. In 2005, a federal court ruled that Missouri had no right to ban the KKK from the Adopt-a-Highway program based on the Klan’s political beliefs.
The suit names, among others, the state, the GDOT, Gov. Nathan Deal, Union County and Union County Commissioner Lamar Paris, who at the time said Union County was “fully capable of picking up our own trash.”