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Judge orders Sen. Jason Rapert to provide information from social media accounts

State Sen. Jason Rapert (file photo).
Michael Hibblen
The group American Atheists argues state Sen. Jason Rapert violated the First Amendment rights of its members.

A U.S. district judge is ordering Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, to release information regarding his social media accounts. The order is part of a lawsuit filed against Rapert by the group American Atheists.

The lawsuit was filed in 2018 after members of the group were blocked by Rapert on Twitter and Facebook. Arkansas Atheists attorney Geoffrey Blackwell argues Rapert blocking the group is a violation of First Amendment rights and data from the senator’s accounts can help settle the case.

“The First Amendment applies to government officials online and in traditional public forums,” Blackwell said. “By restricting their ability to comment and engage in discussion with him and other constituents, he infringed on their right to free speech based on their viewpoint.”

As part of the case, U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker ordered Rapert to release information related to his @jasonrapert Twitter account and the "Jason Rapert For Arkansas" Facebook account. Baker has given Rapert until next Tuesday to file a motion to try and keep his records private.

Rapert said in a statement that he is working with his attorneys to determine what steps he will take next. He called the lawsuit "a frivolous case launched against me for political purposes."

"One of the men who was publicly bragging about suing me with the American Atheists early on even went to jail for filing a false police report against me. I will never bow down to their intimidation. If there is any Justice left in American this whole lawsuit should be thrown out. The federal courts should not allow this sort of charade to continue," Rapert said.

Blackwell said if information regarding Rapert's social media accounts is released, it would help solve the dispute.

“We also have to show that he was using accounts as part of his official duties,” Blackwell said.

Ronak Patel is a reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.