LITTLE ROCK, AR—Today in federal court, American Atheists filed a motion for a preliminary injunction and a temporary restraining order against Arkansas State Senator Stanley Jason Rapert in the civil rights lawsuit alleging that Rapert regularly violates the rights of his atheist constituents by blocking them on social media.
The preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order seek immediate protection of the plaintiffs’ rights while the lawsuit is ongoing.
The lawsuit was brought on behalf of American Atheists members in Arkansas, including four individual plaintiffs who were unconstitutionally blocked from Rapert’s official Facebook and Twitter accounts after they expressed viewpoints different from his on several issues and because of their atheism. According to the complaint, Rapert’s actions violate both the Arkansas and U.S. Constitutions.
“The law is on our side. Multiple federal courts have ruled that elected officials cannot pick and choose which constituents can engage with them on public forums created through social media,” said Alison Gill, Vice President for Legal and Policy. “Sen. Rapert uses these platforms in an official government capacity and blocking citizens because of their political or religious views is a textbook violation of their rights.”
“Senator Rapert takes great pleasure promoting his extreme views about religion and his hostility toward atheists on taxpayers’ dime,” said Nick Fish, president of American Atheists. “Rather than spending all of his waking hours advancing a Christian supremacist agenda, he should focus on protecting the rights of all of his constituents, including those who disagree with him.”
Arkansas attorney Philip E. Kaplan, recognized by Best Lawyers in America in the areas of Appellate Law and First Amendment Law, among many others, is American Atheists’ local counsel in the lawsuit. According to Kaplan, “Sen. Rapert’s eagerness to block any dissenting voice should set off alarm bells for all Arkansans and all Americans, who treasure—above all else—their freedom of speech.”
American Atheists seeks a court order permitting the plaintiffs to participate in these public forums, as well as nominal damages, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees.