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Weinstein discusses legalities of KKK request on international radio

June 18, 2012

Professor James Weinstein recently was interviewed on “The Voice of Russia” during a news segment about a Ku Klux Klan group in Georgia that petitioned to join the state highway clean-up program.

The International Keystone Knights of the KKK in Union County applied to the “Adopt-A-Highway” program, hoping to clean up along part of a highway in the Appalachian Mountains. In denying the request, the State Department of Transportation said the group is not civic-minded, and it expressed safety concerns about passing motorists seeing KKK promotional signs or members picking up trash.

Weinstein said he understood the motivation of the state not to want a racist organization to be an official sponsor of a program. “But it’s legally problematic,” he said. “This is an unsolved area of the law on which the United States Supreme Court will eventually have to give us an answer. There have been lower court decisions going both ways, both affirming the right of the Klan or neo-Nazi organizations to participate in clean-up programs and others denying such a right.”

Noting that, under the First Amendment, “you can say almost anything you want, any way you want to say it, if it’s part of public discourse,” Weinstein said the issue is whether such activities as the highway program fall within this highly protected, unique American domain of free speech.

Weinstein said the state’s argument that signs on the highway noting that Klan sponsorship would constitute a safety hazard issue had “the odor of being a pretext.”

To listen to the interview, click here.

Weinstein, the Amelia D. Lewis Professor of Constitutional Law at the College of Law, has academic interests in constitutional law, especially free speech, as well as jurisprudence and legal history. He is co-editor of "Extreme Speech and Democracy" (Oxford University Press 2009, paperback edition 2010), and the author of "Hate Speech, Pornography and the Radical Attack on Free Speech Doctrine" (Westview Press 1999). Weinstein has written numerous articles in law review symposia on a variety of free speech topics, including free speech theory, obscenity doctrine, institutional review boards, commercial speech, database protection, campaign finance reform, the relationship between free speech and constitutional rights, hate crimes and campus speech codes. Weinstein has litigated several significant free speech cases, primarily on behalf of Arizona Civil Liberties Union. Earlier in his career, he wrote several influential articles on the history of personal jurisdiction and its implication for modern doctrine.