The Ku Klux Klan’s application to adopt-a-highway in north Georgia has been denied by the Georgia Department of Transportation. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a similar case in Missouri went to court, where the KKK won its appeal. The court in Missouri ruled that the state could not discriminate against an organization based on that organization’s beliefs– a First Amendment case.
Specifics aside, this story is an example of something American society, in general, does pretty well: holding in creative tension the liberal idea that government must keep open, as much as possible, the marketplace of ideologies (distasteful as some ideologies are); alongside the conservative* idea that some ideologies call for governmental restriction because they threaten the common good. What is difficult, but healthy (if done in the true democratic spirit of listening and humility), is working through which ideologies are a threat, and which are merely distasteful.
The public debate over the definition of marriage is a great example of this tension. Some people fervently believe that any definition of marriage that would include homosexual couples is not just distasteful, but is a threat to the common good– and therefore merits government’s prohibition. This case of the KKK wanting governmental recognition to pick up litter is similar (albeit with fewer ramifications): is the KKK’s ideology merely distasteful (and therefore government needs to be neutral); OR is the KKK’s ideology a threat to the common good (and therefore government needs to be more assertive in its ruling)?
*I mean classically conservative, in the tradition of Edmund Burke and more recently Russell Kirk. I do not mean “conservative” as it is most usually used, as a synonym for today’s Republican party.