LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A settlement was reached Tuesday after an activist group accused Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert of wrongfully blocking users on his social media accounts.
The state of Arkansas has to pay the American Atheists group $16,000 for bills they incurred during this lawsuit. Rapert was also ordered to unblock the users.
Attorneys claimed that because Rapert is an elected official and part of the government, he does not have the right to block people from his professional pages.
The lawsuit originally filed back in 2019 goes through the stories of four different social media users who the activist group “American Atheists” say were blocked by the senator.
The group said the users were engaging in conversations with Rapert on his professional social media pages, commenting on opposing beliefs. The users said the senator’s actions violated their right to freedom of speech.
Geoffrey Blackwell, the Litigation Counsel at American Atheists, voiced his opinion on the issue.
“The government has a very, very high bar before it can prohibit someone from participating in the conversation,” Blackwell said. “Picking and choosing who’s able to speak and participate in conversations in that kind of forum are among the worst. In fact, the supreme court called it the most egregious form of content discrimination that the government can engage in.”
Rapert released a statement Wednesday saying he moderates his social media pages “for civility as [he] see fit.” He also stated, “I have never blocked anyone for their personal viewpoint ever, but I have blocked people for using profanity, threatening others, or intimidating other people.”