The American Atheists organization and individual plaintiffs will be in federal court in Little Rock Tuesday to seek a temporary restraining order against Sen. Jason Rapert for blocking criticism in comments on his Facebook and Twitter pages.
The original suit against Rapert was dismissed at the request of plaintiffs to correct a technical glitch, which had led to some crowing last week by Rapert, but it was soon refiled by Philip Kaplan and Bonnie Johnson of the Williams and Anderson firm for the plaintiffs and is scheduled for a hearing at 9 a.m. before Judge Kristine Baker. Said the motion
Plaintiffs request that the Court immediately issue a TRO so that plaintiffs and other Facebook and Twitter users, including Senator Rapert’s constituents, are not unconstitutionally blocked from full participation in matters before the 92nd Arkansas General Assembly, which convenes on January 14, 2019.
“The loss of First Amendment freedoms, for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury.” Plaintiffs already have suffered irreparable injury due to the actions of Senator Rapert and denial of their request for a TRO would compound that harm.
Taxpayers are paying the cost of defending Rapert’s disdain for the First Amendment through the legal representation of the attorney general.
Here’s the brief in support of the motion for a restraining order.
Social media blocking by politicians is a growing issue around the country and has produced some decisions adverse to Rapert’s belief that he need not endure criticism. But there’s no definitive appellate ruling yet.
Rapert, of course, doesn’t only block atheists. Plenty of practicing Christians and those of other stripes have been exiled by the bully of Bigelow. But the atheists’ lawsuit says their beliefs are part of the reason Rapert has blocked them.
The proceeding Tuesday will determine whether Rapert must open is forums pending trial of the case on the merits,