Arkansas State Senator Jason Rapert Agrees to Unblock Atheist Twitter Critics

Arkansas State Senator Jason Rapert (right) will have to unblock his atheist voters from his social media accounts, as part of a settlement a national organization of atheists said it reached with the state.

American Atheists, a group that advocates the separation of church and state, sued Rapert in 2018, arguing that he violated its members’ free speech by preventing them from expressing their views on its official Facebook and Twitter accounts. According to a copy of the settlement announced this week, Rapert 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.

“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 declaration posted on his social media pages on Wednesday, 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,” he said.

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American Atheists claimed in their complaint that 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 and exclusionary phrase “In God We Trust” in every classroom in Arkansas public schools 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 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.

In his statement, Rapert welcomed the public to his Facebook pages and to interact if they are “civilian.” 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 wrote.

— Religious News Service

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