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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court Monday allowed the Ku Klux Klan to adopt a half-mile stretch of I-55 in Missouri.

The court rejected an appeal by the State of Missouri that argued it could deny the Klan’s application without violating the white-supremacist group’s right to free-speech.

The high court also rejected a separate U.S. Justice Department appeal that argued the Klan’s right to free speech is subordinate to U.S.civil rights laws, especially since the Adopt-a-Highway program is run by a state agency which receives federal funding.

The case began in 1994 when Michael Cuffley, a top member of the Missouri-based Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, filed the application.

The highway, I-55, is one of the bus routes used to send black students to county schools as part of court-ordered desegregation of schools in the St. Louis area.

Missouri denied the Klan’s application. It contended that several other states had rejected similar requests by the Klan, which, as part of its mandate, bans anyone who is Jewish, African-American, Mexican or Asian.

Missouri also argued that the racist group has a history of violence.

As part of the Adopt-a-Highway program, groups “adopting” the road get to post a sign advertising its ownership, as well as provide volunteers for cleaning its shoulders.

“It (the sign) also implies a message of acceptance, a message that the state regards the Klan as a valuable member of society just like the Rotary Club or the Jaycees who have adopted the next stretch of highway down the road,” said a group of 20 states in a statement before the court.

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