Members of the International Keystone Knights of the KKK who applied to GDOT's Adopt-a-Highway program along a one-mile stretch of Ga. 515 in Union Co. (from left) Harley Hanson, April Chambers and an unidentified member.
ATLANTA -- The application by a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan to adopt a one mile section of Georgia Highway 515 in North Georgia's Union County has been denied by the Georgia Department of Transportation.
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Officials with GDOT released a statement late Tuesday that said, in part, that after consulting with Gov. Nathan Deal, they have "denied the application of the International Keystone Knights of the Ku Klux Klan to participate in the Department's Adopt A Highway program in Union County, GA."
The statement went on to note that encountering signage and members of the KKK along a roadway would "create a definite distraction to motorists."
In a letter to the organization, GDOT commissioner Keith Golden said, "The impact of erecting a sign naming an organization which has a long rooted history of civil disturbance would cause a significant public concern. Impacts include safety of the traveling public, potential social unrest, driver distraction, or interference with the flow of traffic. These potential impacts are such that were the application granted, the goal of the program, to allow civic minded organizations to participate in public service for the State of Georgia, would not be met."
GDOT also said the section of roadway requested would be ineligible for adoption since its posted speed limit exceeds the program's maximum of 55 mph.
In late May, the International Keystone Knights of the KKK submitted an application to GDOT to adopt a mile of the highway near Blairsville. Organizations that are approved to adopt a section of roadway, promise to help keep that portion of highway clean.
Reached by telephone Tuesday afternoon, April Chambers, with the Klan group, said that if the state has decided to deny their application, "We'll see them in court."
Chara Fisher Jackson, legal director for the ACLU of Georgia, told 11Alive's Paul Crawley Tuesday afternoon that they had received a "request for assistance" in the case, and that they are "going through the process" of investigating. She said they would not comment on the specific merits of the case yet, or if they would get involved, but said, "It is something we would look at."
Veteran First Amendment attorney Alan Begner of Atlanta is not involved in the case, but he told 11Alive News he believes the state cannot win a legal challenge.
"Under the oldest and most protected First Amendment rights, the content of the message cannot be used by a government to limit speech; the state is in the classic quandary with nowhere to turn," Begner said.
A similar application several years ago in Missouri resulted in a federal court decision in favor of the KKK being permitted to adopt a highway. The decision noted that the state could not prohibit participation because of a group's political beliefs.