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Freedom of Speech: Missouri Knights of the Ku Klux Klan V. Kansas City and Freedom of Religion: Lyng V. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Association

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The articles “Freedom of Speech: Missouri Knights of the Ku Klux Klan v. Kansas City” and “Freedom of Religion: Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Association” both engage in conflicts pertaining to the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights.

“Freedom of Speech: Missouri Knights of the Ku Klux Klan v. Kansas City” is an article about the KKK’s attempt to spread their beliefs through a public access cable television channel. Dennis Mahon and Allan Moran, both of the KKK, asked to be broadcasted on air in 1987, and the whole situation led to a major problem. The KKK is known for its killings, prejudice, and cross burnings, and they wanted to be shown on television to further spread their message. The First Amendment states the right to the freedom of speech, but many of the community members had a problem with the whole situation. People with race relations, local leaders, and members of the cable company did not want to grant the KKK the right to appear on air. Black ministers and important politicians were not happy with the KKK’s request to voice their opinions. The KKK complied with all of the rules that were presented by the cable company, even when they were told to create a locally produced show and receive training in video production. They happily obeyed the regulations and didn’t cause additional problems to what they were soon to face. The cable company studio was located in a neighborhood that was 95% black, and violence was a major concern for the cable company. Many of those people threatened to drop their cable subscriptions if the KKK were given their airtime. One of the greatest oppositions to the KKK was Reverend Emanuel Cleaver, a pastor of the Saint James-Paseo United Methodist Church and a member of the Kansas City Council. Reverend Cleaver was a notable man and was also one the victims of a KKK cross burning on his property. The Kansas City area was one of the most segregated areas in the country and there had been other continuing incidents of graffiti and harassment to black members of the community. Reverend Cleaver believed that the KKK should not be granted the ability to exercise their freedom of speech because they were a “terrorist organization” and murderers of thousands of people across the country. The only solution to keeping the show off the air was to prove that the “Klansas City Kable” would trigger violence in the neighborhood. Because none of the episodes of “Klansas City Kable” had been created yet, Reverend Cleaver had to turn to another idea. He presented the idea of eliminating the public access channel altogether. Finally, on June 16, 1988, the city council of Kansas City voted 9 to 2 to drop the public access channel. Surprisingly, one of the two votes against the idea was Joanne Collins. She got a lot of attention because she was black. She believed the freedom of speech should not be withheld from anyone, even if it was the KKK. This event caused much debate and officials battered over what the First Amendment stood for. Because the public access channel was dropped, Pevar filed a suit in federal district court on behalf of the KKK: Missouri Knights of the Ku Klux Klan v. Kansas City. He stated that the city had discriminated against the KKK, and along with violating the freedom of speech; the cable company had violated the viewers’ right to watch uncensored programs. The city countered by saying the channel was private property and the KKK was not deprived its right to speak. They could still speak freely by way of rallies, telephone, leaflets, radio, marches, and being invited to TV talk shows. The district ruled in favor of the KKK on May 26, 1989, and stated that it could win a trial and a trail date was set for September. The city was on the brink of a budget crisis, so they offered to settle. The KKK rejected the offer and countered with two additional conditions. On June 13, 1989, the city council voted on the reinstating of the public access channel. The result was seven to three, in favor of the channel being reinstated. The first episode of the “Klansas City Kable” eventually aired on April 3, 1990, but a second episode of the show has never aired because the citizens of Kansas City elected Emanuel Cleaver as their mayor during that same month.

I found the article “Freedom of Speech: Missouri Knights of the Ku Klux Klan v. Kansas City” very interesting. The ending was a bit ironic because a major opposition to the KKK was elected into power and the KKK never got to air their second episode. The article displays many conflicts that arise because of the interpretation of the First Amendment. There were two important opinions from two notable black citizens on the case. One was Reverend Cleaver’s, who believed the KKK were terrorists and were sprouting new seeds by being broadcasted. The other was Joanne Collins, who believed that everyone should

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