Supreme Court Refuses to Hear KKK Campus Radio Case
A Ku Klux Klan chapter’s attempt to force a state university radio station in St. Louis to accept its financial support and acknowledge it on the air was denied Supreme Court review earlier this month.
The court, without comment, let stand rulings that the station’s refusal to accept the KKK’s money and give it on-air credit did not violate the White supremacist group’s free-speech rights.
Station KWMU is a not-for-profit radio station on the campus of the University of Missouri-St. Louis. To help pay for its operations, KWMU operates an “enhanced funding” program through its sales department. The station, which is banned by law from accepting advertising, gives on-air acknowledgment to any individual or group that provides funding.
As is the practice at many public radio stations, donors are mentioned in 15-second announcements read by station employees.
Michael Cuffley, state coordinator for the Missouri KKK, sought in 1997 to sponsor certain segments on KWMU — underwriting that would put the station under obligation to acknowledge the KKK’s support.
Cuffley submitted this message to be read on air: “The Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, a White Christian organization, standing up for rights and values of White Christian America since 1865. For more information please contact the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan at Box 525, Imperial, Mo. 63052. Let your voice be heard.”
Radio station officials, after discussing the KKK’s proposal with university officials, turned it down. A school official later testified that the university feared losing as much as $5 million in annual funding by underwriters and other donors by acknowledging KKK support on air.
A federal trial judge, accepting the school’s economic rationale, threw out the lawsuit.
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal in February.
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