Sunday, December 15, 1996
Klan attorney hoping for holiday peace

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Here's hoping Scott Greenwood gets his Christmas wish this year.

He's the attorney who fought for the Ku Klux Klan's right to display its cross on Fountain Square, but he says he hopes it won't be there this year. And, furthermore, ''my best holiday gift would be not to have to spend a minute in a federal courtroom on the Fountain Square issue.''

From your lips to the Grand Wizard's ears, counselor. The Klan turned in its application on Friday, but the city hasn't approved it yet and the space it reserved is still bare. I suppose we can dream.

And who is this jolly young elf responsible for Cincinnati's least favorite Christmas tradition?

He doesn't look dangerous. He looks like a cherub. Rosy cheeks, big glasses, carefully rumpled hair. Bow tie. White teeth. Good smile. He's likeable, polite and friendly.

So what is this nice young man doing with the guys in pillowcases? And what does his mother think?

He points out that he has worked for not only the Kluckers but also the Catholic Church and abortion protesters. And although ''my parents are not thrilled to have my name associated with certain groups,'' surely it is no surprise.

He has always been a troublemaker.

Lost on Fourth Street

He studied law at the University of Chicago after graduating from Miami University in 1986. His classmates twitted him about his decision to practice law in Cincinnati instead of a bigger city. But he grew up in Dayton, and to him ''Cincinnati was a big city.''

He signed on at one of Fourth Street's most prestigious - and conservative - firms, Taft, Stettinius & Hollister. The fit was not good.

He was sacked one day before his fourth anniversary with the firm. He sued, claiming that he was fired because he is gay. He lost.

I'm guessing the partners were less offended by his sexual orientation than they were by his cases. Pick an unpopular issue, and he'll be there, defending everybody's right to be unpopular. The county's computer porn raid, Issue 3, panhandling, the Klan. You certainly can't accuse him of cowardice.

Protecting the unpopular

He has had death threats, lost some friends, and a ''nice looking African-American woman'' spit in his face in the heat of the Klan-on-the-Square debate. That hurt, he says. ''I loathe the KKK. Their message is personally offensive to me.''

That's the point of his fierce defense of the First Amendment, he says. ''Popular views don't need protection. It's the minority view that needs to be defended.''

Somebody has to do it.

Some of us begin our careers in the front row of the classroom, brown-nosing our little hearts out in hopes of being asked to clean the erasers after class. Later on, we become hall monitors. Much later, we're the accountants and the bankers and nurses. Our thank-you notes are prompt. Our lawns are green. We give our children savings bonds.

We're conventional. We follow the rules. We like the rules. The world needs us, and we're pleased to be of service.

Then, there are the others. These are the people who just can't leave well enough alone. They ask uncomfortable, often impolite, questions. They are never satisfied with answers such as, ''because I'm your teacher and I say so.'' Or even ''because I'm the judge and I say so.''

They're interesting, colorful. They act up in class. They take chances. Troublemaker might not be the right word for people like Scott Greenwood. Catalyst sounds a little too clinical and rabble-rouser seems disrespectful (disrespectful to us rabble, that is). Hero? Maybe.

Whatever they are, the world needs them, too, and they are pleased to be of service. Even when it would be easier to be popular.

As for the Klan, Mr. Greenwood says that the First Amendment has been served. ''They've won their right. The most responsible thing they could do this year is to leave it alone. I hope they do.''

And I hope he gets his wish.

Laura Pulfer's column appears in The Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax at 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM), and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.