A lawsuit that accuses state Sen. Jason Rapert of violating free-speech rights after reportedly blocking constituents from his Facebook and Twitter feeds was filed in federal court earlier this month.
Online records show the complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas on Oct. 2.
According to the complaint, four Arkansas residents -- Betty Jo Fernau of Conway, Catherine Shoshone of Maumelle, Robert Barringer of Conway and Karen Dempsey of Rogers -- and the American Atheists, Inc. allege they have either been blocked or repreatedly had comments deleted from Rapert's social media threads. American Atheists, Inc. is a nonprofit group "dedicated to the separation of religion and government" based out of Cranford, New Jersey.
"Defendant Stanley Jason Rapert has repeatedly deleted the comments of critics and restricted the participation of individuals critical of his statements and policy positions in public forums on social media such as Facebook and Twitter," the federal complaint reads in part. "This practice constitutes viewpoint discrimination in violation of the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment and violates other constitutional protections."
Rapert said he believes the lawsuit, along with the timing in which it was filed, was politically motivated.
"There is no doubt that this is a politically-motivated lawsuit. It was politically motivated and intended to silence me as a Christian conservative representing the people of Arkansas in the Arkansas senate," the local senator said in Facebook Live video after learning of the lawsuit. "The American Atheists and other extremists have been trying to tarnish my reputation. They've defamed my good name, our business and our ministry for several years now. They do this for one simple reason -- and I want all of my fellow Americans to know this -- they do this because I stand up for the values of average, ordinary Arkansas people who still believe in God and our great country."
Among the 57-page complaint, plaintiffs list several examples they believe contradict Rapert's bullying policy.
The senator's Facebook page cautions other users that those who engage in "bullying, intimidation, personal attacks, use profanity or attempts to mislead others with false information" will be banned from the page.
The lawsuit filed against him states he does not apply these regulations to all users who comment among the threads he posts and shares.
Those who filed the federal lawsuit against Rapert said they were among others who have been blocked from the senator's social media platforms. As the complaint states, the plaintiffs said they each feel this violates their Constitutional rights.
"The Individual Plaintiffs are Twitter and Facebook users who have been blocked by the Defendant from one or both of his official social media platforms because of their beliefs and the viewpoints they expressed," the complaint reads in part.
In his online statement, Rapert said the lawsuit will not let this "frivolous lawsuit" affect his campaign trail.
"I will not be intimidated by their tactics and will stand strong in the face of these frivolous allegations," he said. "Just as we've seen extremists trying to destroy Judge Brett Kavanaugh because he represents conservative viewpoints, they're trying to destroy me and other conservatives around the nation. I will continue to stand up and fight for our traditional American values, our Judeo-Christian history and heritage and do my best to ensure that the beliefs held dear by millions of American citizens and Arkansas citizens are represented in the public square.