Dare to Defend the KKK?

Monday, December 06, 2004

It's no surprise that the left-leaning ACLU is supporting the Ku Klux Klan in a recent legal battle. What is, however, is that I'm supporting them too. From Reuters:

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected on Monday a free-speech challenge to a New York law banning the wearing of masks at public gatherings by a group claiming ties to the Ku Klux Klan.

Without comment, the justices let stand a ruling by a U.S. appeals court that upheld the law as constitutional and rejected the challenge by the Church of the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

In 1999, the American Knights filed a lawsuit arguing that the refusal of New York City police officials to allow it to conduct a rally wearing hooded masks violated its free-speech rights under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

A federal judge in 2002 ruled that the law violated the group's free-speech rights, but a U.S. appeals court early this year upheld the anti-mask law as constitutional.

"Since the robe and the hood alone clearly serve to identify the American Knights with the Klan, we conclude that the mask does not communicate any message that the robe and hood do not," the appeals court said.
It goes without saying that this is a racy issue and it's easy to support the ruling against the Klan, because...well, it’s the Klan! But let’s not forget that unpopular speech is just as protected by the First Amendment as any other form.

I understand that a law forcing Klan members who wish to march do so unmasked does not abridge one's right to free speech, but it certainly makes it more difficult if that person feels threatened when identified. And the reason why the law is in place is because of supposed "public safety" concerns. But the truth is that today's Klan marches are non-confrontational and non-violent, however defamatory their words may be towards the so-called "inferior races."

Unless there's an absolute need to identify someone (as was the case when a court ruled that a Florida woman couldn’t have her driver license photo taken while wearing a religious scarf that covered her face), then there's no reason to force that someone to march unmasked.

Anybody else want to join me on this side of the issue?