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Arkansas senator agrees to unblock atheist constituents on Twitter and Facebook

(RNS) Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert will need to unblock his atheist constituents from his social media marketing accounts within funds the national organization American Atheists said it reached with hawaii.

In 2018, American Atheists, a business that advocates for the separation of church and state, sued Rapert, a Republican, arguing he violated its members freedom of speech by blocking them from expressing their viewpoints on his official Facebook and Twitter accounts.

The settlement was announced Wednesday (Aug. 17).

Rapert, in accordance with a copy of the settlement, must remove any restrictions on his social media marketing accounts and can need to pay a lot more than $16,000 to American Atheists for costs linked to the lawsuit.

RELATED: Report: Nonreligious LGBTQ people face heightened stigma, conceal their beliefs

It is a victory for freedom of speech and equality for atheists, said Geoffrey T. Blackwell, litigation counsel for American Atheists, in a statement.

Rapert, in a statement, said he wasnt admitting any wrongdoing or fault with the settlement he signed. The chance to stay this lawsuit without the admission of liability or wrongdoing saves time, money, and effort for several concerned, Rapert said.

In its suit, American Atheists claimed its members were blocked after criticizing Raperts attacks on members of the LGBTQ community, his support of a bill to require the display of the divisive and exclusionary phrase In God We Rely upon all Arkansas public school classrooms and libraries, and his support for a Ten Commandments display due to the Arkansas State Capitol.

The voices of atheists along with other advocates for the separation of religion and government provide valuable contributions to the general public discourse, the business argued in the claim.

RELATED: Study: Atheists that are women, Republicans or Southerners more prone to hide beliefs

Rapert, in his statement on Wednesday, welcomed the general public to his Facebook pages also to interact if they’re civil. He said he runs their own social media marketing and moderates posts for civility when i see fit.

You misbehave and break my page rules, I’ll block you. I’ve never blocked anyone because of their personal viewpoint ever, he said.

Rapert can be the founder and president of the National Association of Christian Lawmakers, which works to revive the Judeo-Christian foundations of our government, he told the Deseret News this past year.

Members often share model legislation on issues such as for example abortion and religious freedom, the newspaper reported.

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