Does the state have the right to deny access to one of its programs if it deems a group unfit in its eyes
group have the right to join a voluntary state program?
Since this case germinated in my home state, and since I was prez of the caving club that became the first in the state to participate in its Adopt-A-Highway program, I've been following this case for many years now. Sadly, I can see both sides of this coin, but... this is the KKK we are talking about [yet, where/how do you draw the line? what line can be drawn? and who has the right to even draw a line???
], and I really abhor what they stand for and their past practices. So, therefore, I would have voted against their "right" to participate. What really irks me also is that the nation's supreme court has gave the right to the KKK by not hearing this case on its merits... by dismissing the case, the KKK won??? BS!
Supreme Court won't consider KKK litter cleanup case
By Gina Holland, Associated Press 01/10/2005
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Missouri lost a Supreme Court appeal Monday over its decision to bar a Ku Klux Klan group from a highway litter cleanup program.
The court's rejection, made without comment, means that the KKK chapter must be allowed into Missouri's Adopt-A-Highway program, which is designed to save money by using volunteers for garbage pickup. Volunteer groups are publicly thanked with signs along the highway acknowledging their help.
Every state but Vermont has such a program. States supporting Missouri in the appeal argued that the Supreme Court needed to intervene so that states unwilling to partner with the KKK would not decide to abolish their programs.
The dispute involves a half-mile stretch of Missouri 21 near Potosi, a town of fewer than 3,000 in the eastern part of the state. [a beautiful part of the state; yet this road, in parts is also termed "blood alley" due to the frequency of accidents on its stretches...]
A KKK chapter sought permission to pick up trash along the road, but was turned down because the program is not open to groups that discriminate based on race or those that courts have said have a history of violence.
Missouri lawyers had argued that a sign marking the KKK stretch of road could lead to more dumping, and could endanger highway workers mistaken for Klan members.
The Klan sued and won on grounds that it had a First Amendment free speech right to participate.
In its appeal, Missouri attorney Erwin O. Switzer III said state leaders are "trying to avoid giving motorists the mistaken impression that the state has anything good to say about a horrific, racist group." He argued that the case was about government speech, not speech of the group.
Robert Herman of St. Louis, the attorney for the KKK, said that the group wants to do its part in community service and to express "solidarity with the community."
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that Missouri's "desire to exclude controversial organizations in order to prevent 'road rage' or public backlash on the highways against the adopters' unpopular beliefs is simply not a legitimate governmental interest that would support the enactment of speech-abridging regulations."
Texas Solicitor General R. Ted Cruz, who filed a brief on behalf of 10 states that backed Missouri, said that states unwilling to partner with the KKK may "forgo the economic benefits of having volunteers pick up tons of roadside trash each year." The 10 states are Alabama, Arkansas, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and Vermont.
The case is Rahn v. Robb, 04-629.
Some additional history:
High court allows KKK to adopt a highway
March 5, 2001 Web posted at: 5:40 p.m. EST (2240 GMT)
From staff and wire reports
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court Monday allowed the Ku Klux Klan to participate in a Missouri "adopt-a-highway" program in which volunteers pick up roadside trash and in return receive a sign recognizing their efforts.
Monday's action was not a decision on the merits of the case.
The court turned down without comment an appeal by Missouri that argued the state should be allowed to prohibit the Klan from participating in the program because the organization does not accept blacks and other minorities as members.
The high court also rejected a separate U.S. Justice Department appeal arguing the nation's civil rights laws would have been violated by allowing the Klan to participate in a program run by a state agency that receives federal funds.
Missouri appealed an 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that said Missouri must allow the Klan to join the highway cleanup program and that the state unconstitutionally rejected the Klan because of its views as a racist organization. Missouri's lawyers said the state had a right to control its own speech and that allowing the Klan to participate would violate the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibition on racial discrimination in federally funded programs.
Law Professor David Cole, who teaches constitutional law at Georgetown University in Washington, called it "a stretch" to say the Klan's participation in the highway program violates the civil rights act. "The Klan, like everyone else, can pick up garbage on the highway," Cole said. "They can't be penalized because they discriminate. Lots of groups discriminate. The Boy Scouts discriminate against gays. But when and if they [Ku Klux Klan] engage in criminal conduct or violence, the state should go after them."
Jeff Briggs, a spokesman for the Missouri Department of Transportation, which administers the highway cleanup program, said officials were reviewing the Supreme Court's action.
"It's what I expected right from the beginning. With us it was a purely constitutional issue," said Thomas Robb, national director of the Ku Klux Klan in Harrison, Arkansas. The case began in May 1994 when Michael Cuffley, the top official in the Missouri organization of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, filed an application to participate in the Adopt-A-Highway program by cleaning up a half-mile segment of Interstate 55.
The stretch of highway is one of the routes used to bus black students to county schools as part of court-ordered desegregation efforts in the St. Louis area, a program the Klan opposes.
The state denied the Klan's application. Missouri said nine other states have rejected similar Klan requests: West Virginia, Texas, Ohio, Maryland, Kansas, Georgia, California, Arkansas and Alabama. Missouri cited the Klan's membership, which is limited to "Aryans." The Klan excludes anyone who is Jewish, black, Hispanic or Asian. Missouri also said the Klan violated state and federal anti-discrimination laws, and that it had a history of unlawful violence.
The Klan sued, arguing that its exclusion from the program violated its constitutional rights. A federal judge ruled for the Klan and in March 2000 the 8th Circuit Court concurred.
The 8th Circuit said the state would not violate the federal civil rights law by letting the Klan adopt a stretch of highway. "So long as the state does not deny anyone an opportunity to adopt a highway on an improper basis, the state does not violate Title VI [of the Civil Rights Act of 1964]," the appeals court said. The court said the Klan, as one of many voluntary participants in the highway beautification program, is free to determine its own membership.
"Requiring the Klan essentially to alter its message of racial superiority and segregation by accepting individuals of other races, religions, colors, and national origins in order to adopt a highway would censor its message and inhibit its constitutionally protected conduct," the 8th Circuit wrote.
The appeals court also rejected Missouri's discrimination-related reasons.
The court wrote that "the state has never denied the application of any other group on the grounds of discriminatory membership. A quick glance down the list of participants in the Adopt-A-Highway program, however, reveals many adopters that have discriminatory membership criteria. For example, it is commonly known that the Knights of Columbus, a venerated service organization that has chapters adopting many stretches of highway across the state, limits its membership to Catholic men."
In the appeal acted on Monday, Missouri's lawyers said the Constitution's free-speech guarantee protects the state from having to post signs "suggesting that the state approves of, and is grateful for, the Klan's participation" in the program.
The Klan's lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union said the First Amendment protects the organization "against those who would misuse government power to suppress political dissidents."
A group of 28 states supported the appeal, saying the highway sign conveyed more than information, or even thanks. "It also 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 states said.
The 8th Circuit said the First Amendment protects everyone, "even those with viewpoints as thoroughly obnoxious as those of the Klan, from viewpoint-based discrimination by the state."
The court added, "There are better ways of countering the Klan's repellant philosophy than by the state's engaging in viewpoint-based discrimination. In a myriad of constitutionally sound ways, state officials and private citizens alike may oppose the Klan's racially divisive views and express disapproval of those views in the strongest terms.
[ok, like passing motorists will now chuck trash at workers and/or maybe extra garbage along that route?]
"But viewpoint-based exclusion of any individual or organization from a government program is not a constitutionally permitted means of expressing disapproval of ideas -- even very poor ideas -- that the government disfavors."