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A lawyer, thinking he’s protecting his family, secretly joins the KKK, but his revulsion toward the group along with his wife’s participation against the Klan, throw him and his son into mortal danger.
INSPIRED BY TRUE EVENTS
WWI veteran, Raymond Peterson, in his 30s, joins Frank Miller’s law firm. Miller, who is a racist and misogynist, takes Peterson to the secret Ku Klux Klan hideout, and there threatens Raymond’s family if he doesn’t join the KKK and their cause - the Oregon Compulsory Education Act. They begin their malevolent quest by marching onto the Catholic school property during a press conference which was orchestrated by the Bishop. The clergyman was announcing plans to fight the Compulsory Education Act.
While Raymond is reluctantly working with the KKK, Barbara, Raymond’s wife, joins the Bishop and the opposition. Miller wants Raymond to stop his wife, but Barbara, a former suffragette, will not be deterred, and she publicly throws her support for the Bishop.
The couple have two children who attend the private school. Johnny, their Down-Syndrome son, seems to know his father’s secret, which unnerves Raymond even further. This adds more tension on the already strained relationship between the father and son.
Miller invites the family to his son’s birthday party. They reluctantly attend. Frank’s son, Frankie Junior, dumps his cake over Johnny, who seems unperturbed by it. Someone takes a photo of the child which mortifies the family, and they leave immediately after the incident.
More Klan activities terrifies and frustrates Peterson, and he sets himself on fire while the Klan is burning crosses on the Bishop’s property. As he rolls to douse himself out, the Klan abandons him. Some days later, the Bishop visits while Raymond is home trying to figure out how to get rid of the evidence. The Bishop alludes to knowing who the burning Klan member was.
Raymond decides his family must move, so sends a resume to a law firm in another county. The Post Master, a Klan member, intercepts and gives it to Frank. Raymond also tries to alert the police of the Klan’s doings. He thinks he has done the right thing, not realizing the chief is also a Klan member.
Another Klan outing is planned, but Raymond begs out of it since it’s his and Barbara’s wedding anniversary. Miller threatens Peterson, so Raymond lies to Barbara about having to work. Hoping to surprise her husband, Barbara brings supper to the office only to discover it empty. She drives to the Miller house, and there she learns of Raymond’s terrible deceit.
She and the children leave, and the Klan decides Raymond is too much of a risk, so hides him in an underground jail. During his imprisonment, Miller and the police chief torture Raymond to discover where his wife and children are hiding. Raymond knows nothing and refuses to say anything. Once he’s alone, a sympathetic deputy helps Raymond escape.
He hides away in an old warehouse near the river. After living like this for about a week, he finds his son’s cake-covered image pasted in a newspaper ad. It is making fun of children who attend private schools, like the child in the photo, while endorsing the Compulsory Education Act.
Infuriated, Raymond goes to the Klan hideout planning to set it on fire. When he arrives, the members taunt him, but he gives it back and throws down a burning torch and escapes.
A few days later, Frank finds Barbara and the children at a drugstore, and kidnaps Johnny. Raymond finds out and chases Miller to Mount Hood to save his child. Miller falls off the edge of the mountain, nearly taking Raymond with him.
The movie ends at the old Klan hideout (which did not burn down) with the Bishop, supporters, and Peterson family listening to the election results. The Compulsory Education Act gets passed, disappointing everyone in attendance. The Bishop turns to Raymond and asks if he would lead the suit against the State of Oregon.
Though the characters are all fictional, the passage of the Compulsory Education Act occurred, and many historians believe the KKK were behind this 1922 measure. The private schools sued the State of Oregon, and in 1925, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned this law in Pierce, Governor of Oregon vs. Society of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.