Lawmakers in Missouri
were proud of their Adopt A Highway
program, where organizations and individuals could "adopt" a stretch of road providing they made a commitment to clean up litter
along that road at least four times a year. Signs featuring the name of sponsor would be placed along the road.
They were proud of it until the Ku Klux Klan
signed up and adopted a one mile stretch of I-55
south of St. Louis
. When Missouri balked, the Klan sued, and the case made it to the Supreme Court
. The Court ruled that Missouri could not discriminate even against idiots in dunce caps, so the signs went up. Until somebody sawed them down, twice. The second time, the man, Chris Bellers, was caught and fined only $100, though he could have gone to jail under the relevant laws.
Most methods of combating hate speech
can fall into three categories. The first is making the speech in question illegal, which the state tried by excluding the Klan, but this is unconstitutional and erodes everyone's first amendment
protections. The second is extra-legal methods of vandalism, intimidation, and violence, but these generally have a chilling effect on free speech
as well. The third way is the best, confronting hate speech with your own speech. One of the most brilliant examples of this is what finally happened in Missouri.
State senator Bill Clay Jr.
(D - St. Louis) sponsored a bill to rename the stretch of highway sponsored by the Klan after Rosa Parks
. The bill was quickly signed into law by then Governor Mel Carnahan
(whose corpse is famous for winning reelection against John Ashcroft
). "It's always nice to be thought of," responded Parks. The Klan muttered something about Carnahan betraying the white race and stopped cleaning up the litter.