Published June 15, 2012
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Ku Klux Klan make strange bedfellows, but they may march into court together to press a Georgia chapter of the white supremacy group's bid to join the state’s Adopt-A-Highway program.
“We have been approached by the group and are now doing research,” said Debra Seagraves, executive director of the civil rights group, told FoxNews.com. “We are considering representing them.”
The Georgia Department of Transportation denied an application by the International Keystone Knights of the KKK in Union County to adopt part of Route 515 in the Appalachian Mountains on Tuesday, saying that "promoting an organization with a history of inciting civil disturbance and social unrest would present a grave concern" and could negatively impact quality of life in the Peach State.
Despite the group’s controversial history, that denial was “clearly viewpoint discrimination” on behalf of state transportation officials, Seagraves told FoxNews.com.
The civil rights group will now gather facts about the case before ultimately deciding whether to represent the Klan chapter. If the ACLU does represent the group, a lawsuit could follow but other remedies short of legal action may be included, she said.
“We are considering it,” Seagraves said of litigation.
The state's program enlists volunteers to pick up trash, and volunteers are recognized with a sign along the road they adopt. State DOT officials said in a 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 along with April Chambers on behalf of the group, 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 have blasted 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 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Missouri's attempt to reject a local KKK chapter's application, saying membership in the program cannot be denied because of a group's political beliefs. In Kentucky, the transportation department accepted a white-separatist group's contract to participate in the state's highway cleanup program, fearing an unsuccessful legal battle.
Hanson, who was aware of the case in Missouri, told FoxNews.com earlier this week 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.