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Judge Says Radio Station Can Keep Airwaves Klan-Free


A federal judge has ruled that the University of
Missouri-St. Louis does not have to broadcast Ku Klux Klan
announcements on its radio station.

Late last month, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Mummert rejected the
KKK’s request to require KWMU-FM to air the announcements. The Klan had
sued the university’s board of curators after the chancellor, Dr.
Blanche M. Touhill rejected the group’s request in October to
underwrite KWMU-FM radio programs in exchange for fifteen-second
promotional announcements during the afternoon rush hour.

The university’s board holds KWMU-FM’s broadcasting license. At a
hearing in August, Touhill testified that the school could lose
millions of dollars in gifts and student tuition if the Klan is allowed
to underwrite the programs.

In its lawsuit, the KKK said it is a social action and advocacy
group. As an underwriter, it would have KWMU-FM air its slogan as “a
White Christian organization, standing up for the rights and values of
White Christian America since 1865.”

Robert Herman, the lawyer representing the KKK in Missouri, said he will appeal the ruling.

“I’m convinced the law will not allow the government to
discriminate against groups on the basis of what they believe and that,
ultimately, the First Amendment will prevail,” Herman said.

Judge Mummert acknowledged that the KKK’s proposed promotional
announcement violates none of KWMU-FM’s underwriting guidelines. But,
he said, KWMU is not an unrestricted forum for program underwriters.
For instance, the Federal Communication Commission bars public radio
stations from airing promotions for ballot issues or political
announcements from candidates, except for those seeking federal office.

COPYRIGHT 1998 Cox, Matthews & Associates

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