The State of Georgia averted an immediate black eye last week when Gov. Nathan Deal made it known he didn’t want the Ku Klux Klan to be given a permit for picking up trash on a portion of Georgia Highway 515 in Union County.
While the governor’s refusal to allow the permit to be granted may face stiff opposition on free speech grounds if challenged in court, at least the governor had his ire in the right place.
And if the state is sued in court, we suggest no less an attorney than former Governor Roy Barnes be hired to defend the state’s 22 year old Adopt-a-Highway rules. The former governor knows the laws back and forth, and we figure, would present a solid, innovative defense, and possibly save the state from further embarrassment. (Earlier the Ku Klux Klan sought a similar in permit in Missouri, was denied, but won the case in court on free speech grounds.)
The Georgia regulations concerning picking up trash under the Adopt-a-Highway plans are simple and straight-forward. About anyone is allowed to pick up the trash, though a permit is required. Here’s what the regulations say:
Any civic-minded organization, business, individual, family, city, county, state or federal agency is welcome to volunteer in the Georgia Adopt-a-Highway program. Each volunteer group must have at least six members, with three backup members. All members’ names, addresses and phone numbers will be provided to Georgia DOT prior to acceptance of the application. Children 12 to 15 years must be supervised by adults at a rate of one adult for every three children. Children under the age of 12 are not eligible for participation in the program.
However, the state must first issue the permit to allow litter collection.
Perhaps which organizations could apply for picking up highway trash might be strengthened, so that the state would have more control. For instance, how about only allowing organizations that had a state business license, or a charitable organization (like a 501(c)(3) non-profit), or similar state-approved entity, to be eligible to pick up trash? It might stop fringe organizations while not eliminating civic organizations.
Another comment from this came from the Chattanooga Times-Free Press:
“There is, for those who look, a middle ground available in the controversy should the courts overrule Tuesday’s decision. It would allow the Klan to participate in the program and provide satisfaction to those who strongly object to such participation. Missouri shows the way.
“When that state (Missouri) lost its battle to halt Klan participation, the legislature made its objections known in a subtle and effective way. It named the stretch of road adopted by the KKK after Rosa Parks, the civil rights leader. If the courts overrule GDOT’s decision, Georgia will have to follow suit. It should grant the Klan permission to adopt a portion of Route 515 and then rename it in honor of one of the many state victims of the hatreds inspired by the Klan. The names of Mary Turner, a pregnant black woman lynched in Valdosta in 1918, and Leo Frank, a Jewish businessman lynched in 1915 in Marietta, are two that come to mind.”
At least immediately, Georgia isn’t faced with allowing a state-sanctioned sign saying the Ku Klux Klan is being a “good citizen” by picking up trash. This story may not be over… though we hope so.