The Georgia Department of Transportation has denied a Ku Klux Klan group's application to join the state's Adopt A Highway program.
The International Keystone Knights of the KKK in Union County applied last month to adopt part of Route 515 in the Appalachian Mountains. In a statement Tuesday, the agency said "promoting an organization with a history of inciting civil disturbance and social unrest would present a grave concern" and could "have the potential to negatively impact the quality of life" of people in the county and state.
The state's program enlists volunteers to pick up trash, and volunteers are recognized with a sign along the road they adopt. The agency said in the statement that maintaining safety on roadways is the department’s first priority and that "encountering signage and members of the KKK along a roadway would create a definite distraction to motorists."
Harley Hanson, the "exalted cyclops" of the Klan's "Realm of Georgia," who filed the application on behalf of the International Keystone Knights of the KKK in Union County, told FoxNews.com before the request was denied that "all [they] want to do is adopt this piece of road and clean it."
In a letter of denial to the KKK, Department of Transportation Commissioner Keith Golden added that the stretch of highway for which the group applied is ineligible for adoption because its posted speed limit exceeds the program maximum of 55 mph.
Critics balked at the move as an offensive publicity stunt, and at least one elected official had called on the state to reject the application from a "domestic terrorist group."
"It should be denied just as we would deny the request from any other hate group," state Rep. Tyrone Brooks, head of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials, told FoxNews.com. He said that the application even being considered was offensive.
In a similar case in Missouri a lengthy legal battle took place when the state sought to ban an effort by the KKK to adopt a road there. Missouri eventually lost, with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2005 that maintaining membership in the program cannot be denied because of a group's political beliefs, The Associated Press reports.
Hanson, who was aware of the case in Missouri, had told FoxNews.com that he thought the application would be approved, as the effort was just another way for the group to assist the community.
"We're not doing this for a membership drive; we've got all the members we want. And we've got intentions to do it more than four times per year," Hanson said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.