The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Atlanta has filed suit against the State of Georgia for refusing to allow the Ku Klux Klan’s application to join a highway cleanup program. Yes, three organizations that routinely suppress the actions of others- the KKK, ACLU and the government- are all battling it out.
Executive Director of the ACLU Foundation of Georgia Debbie Seagraves stated,
“The fundamental right to free speech is not limited to only those we agree with or groups that are inoffensive. The government cannot pick or choose who is protected by the Constitution. There will always be speech and groups conveying hateful messages that are distasteful to some. That is why the First Amendment protects free speech for all.”
In May, The International Keystone Knights of the KKK in Union County applied to be part of the state’s Adopt-A-Highway Program with the goal of cleaning up Route 515. The application was denied, as the Transportation Department claimed that the program is aimed at “civic-minded organizations in good standing.” Whatever-the-hell that means.
But, isn’t what the KKK is trying to do “civic-minded?” And if the members are not in jail or under indictment of some kind, could they also not be considered, “In good standing?”
I am actually quite upset that the stupidity of government has forced me into a position where I am actually defending something the KKK is doing! I understand that nobody really wants these people associated with their county, but for government to actively discriminate against an organization that is aiming to beautify the highway- the very aim of this program- wreaks of an ironic hypocrisy that is so glaring, it’s hard to believe that these government officials don’t see it. How can the State of Georgia take a moral high-ground against bigotry and prejudice if they, themselves, are unwilling to grant the KKK the same rights and privileges as other organizations who just want to clean up their community by picking up garbage?
I’m not asking anyone to defend the long history of the KKK. But so long as the KKK is abiding the law, it seems unreasonable to deny them the ability to engage in civic-mindedness because the ideology of the organization is abhorrent. Should spite, alone, be enough of a reason for government to keep a highway cluttered?
We live in America. And while the freedom of speech is a fantastic thing, it does come with some inherent drawbacks. While I may say what I please, others can as well; and that can be offensive at times. If we narrowly define what is acceptable and what is not, we cannot rightfully call ourselves a “free society.” It is far more dangerous to society to restrict speech than it ever could be to let speech run rampant.
We need to decide if we want to support free speech at all costs, or just say that we do because it sounds nice.