U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker has ordered that a lawsuit against Arkansas State Senator, Jason Rapert can proceed to trial.
The American Atheist’s group is suing Sen. Rapert for reportedly blocking comments of the group’s on his social media pages, including Twitter and Facebook, allegedly infringing upon their First Amendment rights. They argue that since Sen. Rapert is a public official, his pages and posts online should be deemed a public forum.
Sen. Rapert asked Judge Baker to dismiss the suit, which she ultimately denied in an 81-page order to proceed, arguing that Sen. Rapert uses the two social media accounts at the heart of the suit in his capacity as a state official. The judge also said that the American Atheist group has a “fair chance of prevailing.”
The judge also denied a request by the group to issue an injunction that would have forced the senator to unblock them on social media, immediately, and will not allow them to seek monetary damages against Sen. Rapert personally.
The senator, however, also purports that his own First Amendment rights are at stake, stating that he has the right to shut out discussions filled with personal attacks and bullying.
“I am confident that the Attorney General of Arkansas and my personal defense attorneys will ultimately be successful in defending me against this politically motivated lawsuit,” Sen. Rapert tells Arkansas Money and Politics. “I have faith that justice will prevail in the end.”