Facebook Twitter

Why this Christian lawmaker has to unblock his atheist constituents on Twitter

Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert has settled a lawsuit with the organization American Atheists over his social media habits

SHARE Why this Christian lawmaker has to unblock his atheist constituents on Twitter
Arkansas State Sen. Jason Rapert leads a committee meeting in March 2018.

State Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, presides over a Senate committee at the state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., on March 14, 2018. Repaert has settled a lawsuit over his social media habits.

Kelly P. Kissel, Associated Press

An organization dedicated to defending the rights of atheists announced Wednesday that it settled its lawsuit against Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert, whom it sued in 2018 over his social media habits.

As part of the settlement, Rapert agreed to unblock atheist constituents on social media, and the state of Arkansas agreed to pay the organization, American Atheists, more than $16,000 on the senator’s behalf.

“This is a victory for freedom of speech and equality for atheists,” said Geoffrey T. Blackwell, litigation counsel for American Atheists, in a statement.

In the 2018 lawsuit, American Atheists accused Rapert of violating the Constitution’s First and 14th Amendments, in addition to Arkansas state law. The organization argued that “government officials can’t limit participation in public forums due to differing beliefs,” according to KATV, a television station in Little Rock, Arkansas.

“The complaint states plaintiffs were blocked when voicing criticism of his attacks on members of the LGBTQ community, the senator’s support of a bill to require the display of “In God We Trust” in all Arkansas public school classrooms and libraries, his support for a Ten Commandments monument on Capitol grounds and more,” KATV reported in 2018.

In addition to being a state senator, Rapert is the founder and president of the National Association of Christian Lawmakers, which works to “restore the Judeo-Christian foundations of our government,” as he told the Deseret News last year.

Through that organization, Rapert has developed relationships with policymakers across the country; the group members often share model legislation on issues like abortion and religious freedom.

The group allows “local, state and federal officials to discuss and debate the major policy issues of this nation from a biblical worldview,” Rapert told the Deseret News.

In its statement, American Atheists’ also criticized the National Association of Christian Lawmakers, arguing that it’s exclusionary.