ST. LOUIS (AP) - For the second time this year, a federal court has ruled that the eastern Missouri town of Desloge cannot ban the Ku Klux Klan - or any other group - from passing out handbills.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Nannette A. Baker's ruling Tuesday stops Desloge from enforcing an ordinance that prohibits leafleting on the street. The American Civil Liberties Union sued on behalf of the KKK.
The ACLU initially filed suit in 2012, and a judge struck down the original ordinance. Desloge revised the law, but the ACLU also challenged the revision, claiming that it, too, violated free speech rights.
Desloge City Administrator Greg Camp says the ordinance is aimed at keeping pedestrians safe, not singling out offensive groups.
Camp says city officials haven't decided whether to appeal.
The Ku Klux Klan is challenging a new Desloge, Missouri ordinance that bans them from distributing flyers in city streets.
A judge has already struck down a city wide ban on distributing leaflets that the Klan had fought with the help of the ACLU. Tony Rothert, legal director for the ACLU's Eastern District of Missouri says the Supreme Court has long held that handing out leaflets is protected by the First Amendment.
Rothert says that neither he, nor the ACLU agrees with the KKK`s message, just their right to share it. "We think it’s important for all Americans that they be able to distribute literature to get their ideas out in peaceful ways and let the market place of ideas debate who’s right,” he said.
Rother has suggested the that the city's new ordinance is an attempt to get around the earlier judges ruling.
Desloge city administrator Greg Camp says that's not true. Camp says, it's never been a question of First Amendment rights. "Regardless of the message, we have to respect the fact that everyone has the right to free speech," he said. "The concern is for people being in the road."
Camp says the city consulted with an attorney before crafting the new measure, and they believe it will hold up in court.
The city has until Monday (May 6th) to respond to the ACLU's new complaint.
Desloge is about 60 miles south of St. Louis.