Arkansas senator agrees to unblock atheist voters on Twitter and Facebook

(RNS) – Arkansas State Senator Jason Rapert will have to unblock his atheist constituents from his social media accounts as part of a settlement the national organization American Atheists said it reached with the State.

In 2018, American Atheists, an organization that advocates the separation of church and state, sued Rapert, a Republican, arguing that he had violated its members’ free speech by preventing them from expressing their views. views on its official Facebook and Twitter accounts.

The settlement was announced Wednesday, August 17.

Rapert, according to a copy of the settlement, is required to remove any restrictions on his social media accounts and will have to pay American atheists more than $16,000 for costs related to the lawsuit.

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“This is a victory for free speech and equality for atheists,” Geoffrey T. Blackwell, a litigator for American atheists, said in a statement.

Rapert, in a report, said he admitted no wrongdoing or wrongdoing with the settlement he signed. “The ability to settle this lawsuit without any admission of liability or wrongdoing saves time, money and effort for everyone involved,” Rapert said.

In its lawsuit, American Atheists claimed its members were blocked after criticizing Rapert’s “attacks on members of the LGBTQ community, his support for a bill requiring the display of the divisive phrase and exclusion of “In God We Trust” in all Arkansas public school classrooms and libraries, and its support of a Ten Commandments exhibit on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol.

“The voices of atheists and other advocates for the separation of religion and government make valuable contributions to public discourse,” the organization argued in its statement.

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Rapert, in his statement Wednesday, welcomed the public to his Facebook pages and “to interact if they are civil.” He said he manages his own social media and moderates posts as a courtesy “as I see fit”.

“You misbehave and break my page rules, I will block you. I have never blocked anyone for their personal views,” he said.

Rapert is also the founder and president of the National Association of Christian Legislators, which works to “restore the Jewish-Christian foundations of our government,” he told Deseret News last year.

Members often share model legislation on issues such as abortion and religious freedom, the newspaper reported.

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