American Atheists File Lawsuit Against Ark. Senator For Blocking People On Social Media
LITTLE ROCK (KFSM) — American Atheists have filed a civil lawsuit on Tuesday (Oct. 2) against Arkansas State Senator Jason Rapert for allegedly “violating the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Consitution and Arkansas state law” for blocking people on Twitter and Facebook.
The complaint was filed on behalf of American Atheists members in Arkansas, including four individuals, the organization said. They claim the plaintiffs were unconstitutionally blocked from Rapert’s official Twitter and Facebook accounts after expressing viewpoints different than his. The complaint also says Rapert prevented their discussion “due to their atheism.”
“The senator’s conduct constitutes viewpoint discrimination, which is prohibited under the First Amendment. Government officials cannot take hostile actions—like limiting participation in public forums—against someone simply because they have different beliefs,” said Alison Gill, American Atheists’ Legal and Policy Director.
“The Supreme Court has been clear that social media platforms are perhaps the most powerful mechanisms for citizens to make their voices heard,” Gill added. “And now multiple federal courts have ruled that blocking citizens from participating in this forum is an unconstitutional violation of their freedom of speech.”
“Senator Rapert has a duty to represent all of his constituents, not just the ones who share his religious views, and on that duty, he is failing miserably,” said American Atheists President Nick Fish. “Anyone capitalizing on their elected office to advance their particular religious viewpoint seriously misunderstands the foundation on which America was built.”
Arkansas attorney Matt Campbell, the American Atheists’ local counsel in the lawsuit, said: “Senator Rapert’s own comments demonstrate that his actions were motivated by animus toward atheists and those who support the constitutional separation of religion and government.”
The American Atheists are seeking a court order permitting the plaintiffs to participate in Rapert’s public forums, as well as nominal damages, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees.
Sen. Jason Rapert played a significant role in getting a Ten Commandments monument on State Capitol grounds in Little Rock after the religious shrine was knocked down by a Van Buren man.
The senator has yet to make comments on the lawsuit.