Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, who has been a leader for Christian-focused legislators in Arkansas and the U.S., has settled a lawsuit brought by the American Atheists related to his actions blocking certain people from his public Twitter account.
According to a press release from Cranford, N.J.-based American Atheists, Rapert has agreed to pay the group $16,000 and will “immediately unblock his atheist constituents from his official social media accounts, restoring their ability to communicate directly with the state senator and fellow constituents.”
“Time and time again, Jason Rapert called our lawsuit ‘frivolous’ and claimed he would ‘never bow down,’” Nick Fish, president of American Atheists, said in the statement posted Wednesday (Aug. 17). “The only things that were ‘frivolous’ were Rapert’s legal arguments. He repeatedly lost to us in court and was going to lose this case. We’re glad he finally saw the writing on the wall and chose to change course, unblock our clients, and settle.”
U.S. District Court Judge Kristine Baker on July 26 ruled against Rapert in the lawsuit and ordered him to turn over documents related to his social media account. American Atheists filed the lawsuit in 2018 after Rapert began blocking some of his constituents from his “Jason Rapert for Arkansas” Twitter account.
“Christian nationalism is an existential threat to our democracy and the future of our country. Christian nationalists are not above the law. Our victory today proves it,” Fish said in Wednesday’s press release.
Rapert, the founder and president of the National Association of Christian Lawmakers, led the effort to place a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol building. Rapert issued the following statement on Wednesday:
“The American Atheists organization and their plaintiffs approached me through my attorneys offering to settle their case against me and file for dismissal a few weeks ago. After consultation with my counsel and the Arkansas Attorney General’s office, I agreed to their offer to settle which they’ve have all signed stipulating that I deny all claims against me and the State of Arkansas. I never once discriminated against my constituents or violated the free speech of anyone,” he said.
“In my personal opinion they wanted to settle this case because we have successfully defended my position for 5 years and they were ultimately going to lose this case. I was advised that settling the case, while admitting no fault and denying any liability for me and the State of Arkansas, was the best thing to do. The settlement agreement includes a complete release and waiver from the plaintiffs against me and the State of Arkansas. The opportunity to settle this lawsuit without any admission of liability or wrongdoing saves time, money and effort for all concerned,” Rapert added.
“I did not discriminate against any constituents nor violated anyone’s freedom of speech and the American Atheists agreed I never admitted such by signing the settlement agreement. I welcome anyone to come to my Facebook pages and interact if they are civil. This has always been my perspective. The fact is none of my social media pages are run by the government, they are mine – I can moderate them for civility as I see fit. You misbehave and break my page rules, I will block you. I have never blocked anyone for their personal viewpoint ever – but I have blocked people for using profanity, threatening others, or intimidating other people.
“I believe in second chances, so since they wanted to settle this lawsuit and I believe I was being treated unfairly throughout the entire process anyway, I have decided to unblock these four people though they could very well already have other accounts following me anyway. Hopefully, they will behave themselves. I am an ordained minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I welcome all atheists to come to my Facebook page “Jason Rapert Save the Nation” where they will hear the truth and the gospel on a regular basis. I already have 86,000 other followers anyway. Over 2 million people have visited my page just this month alone. As long as people are civil, they are welcome to interact. I also invite them to make Jesus Christ the Lord of their life while they are following me.
“It is disappointing, but not unexpected, that the American Atheists are already misrepresenting the settlement agreement they just signed though the ink has barely even dried. One provision of the settlement explicitly stated that the ‘Plaintiffs and the Defendant acknowledge that this Agreement is a compromise and is not an admission of liability or wrongdoing on the part of Defendant or any employee or agent of Defendant.’ The false claims of victory by the American Atheists are simply an effort to save face after they failed to get a verdict affirming their frivolous claims against me. In the end, they signed the settlement agreement and so did I. I look forward to them fulfilling their duty to file for dismissal of the lawsuit altogether. I look forward to saying more about all this when I see the American Atheists fulfill their settlement agreement which has already been signed by all parties,” Rapert said.