"My Trusty Gavel" by Brian Turner / CC BY 2.0

Judge rejects bid to dismiss atheists’ free-speech suit against state senator

Oct 2, 2019

By Linda Satter

A First Amendment showdown between an atheist group and Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, can proceed to trial, a federal judge said Monday.

In an 81-page order, U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker refused to dismiss a Jan. 8 lawsuit alleging that the senator violated the First Amendment rights of atheists who disagreed with him by blocking their comments on his social media accounts. But Baker also denied the atheists’ request to impose a preliminary injunction that would force Rapert to immediately unblock his naysayers.

The plaintiffs, led by the national American Atheists group, seized on Baker’s finding that the group has a “fair chance of prevailing” in the lawsuit, which Rapert had asked her to dismiss.

“Rapert has repeatedly called our lawsuit against him ‘frivolous.’ Today’s decision should put an end to that ridiculous claim,” said Geoffrey Blackwell, the attorney for the atheist group. He added, “The Arkansans Rapert has blocked will get their day in court, and we have every confidence we’ll prevail.”

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