A major event is about to take place in a lawsuit involving an Arkansas legislator and a Christian monument… and the lawmaker doesn’t want you to see it.
Here’s the background: In 2018, Arkansas State Sen. Jason Rapert defied warnings from church/state separation activists when he installed a stand-alone Ten Commandments monument outside the State Capitol. Within a month, two separate groups had filed lawsuits against the state.
One of the lawsuits was filed by a coalition of non-theistic groups, including the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the American Humanist Association, the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers, and seven individuals (both religious and nonreligious) who live in the state. They sued Secretary of State Mark Martin, who allowed all this to happen.
The other lawsuit was filed by the ACLU of Arkansas on behalf of four atheist and agnostic women.
We’re still waiting decisions on those lawsuits, but it was strange that neither of the cases involved The Satanic Temple, since that group really fueled the controversy. You may recall that they applied to put up their own statue of Baphomet via the same process used to approve the Christian display… but they were rejected.
Last year, they filed a motion to act as “intervenors” in this legal battle. In short, that meant they were asking the courts to let them join in the litigation because they would directly be affected by how a judge rules on this matter in the other lawsuits. It was a way to piggyback on the other cases. A judge approved that motion.
That brings us to the latest chapter in this saga.
Today, Rapert will take part in a videotaped deposition. (He’s not being sued personally, but he’s at the center of this controversy, so his responses are important.) Lawyers will be asking him questions about the intent behind his law, why only his monument was allowed to go up, etc. It’s fairly standard practice. Nothing about that is weird.
What’s unusual is that Rapert is trying really hard to make sure no one sees the videotape of his deposition.
Yesterday, his attorney even filed a motion to prevent that videotape from getting out. The gist of the complaint is that neither the ACLU nor the Satanists will tell him what they want to do with the tape, and he’s worried they’ll manipulate it to make him look bad.
Based upon this and other experiences with Plaintiffs in this matter, Senator Rapert is absolutely convinced that, absent the protective order he now seeks, the videotaped recording of his deposition will be used by Plaintiffs to cause him extreme embarrassment and harassment. Once the videotape is in Plaintiffs’ possession, there will be nothing preventing them from using it for their purposes, including disseminating it widely on the internet, thereby creating countless opportunities for embarrassing Senator Rapert by cutting and splicing the videotape in as many ways as can be imagined.
He can’t possibly be serious.
Conservative Christians like him never have to be taken out of context to look bad. Their own words — in context — do the job just fine. (As the saying goes, if we give him enough rope, he’ll hang himself.) Unlike right-wing groups, which leave out important context in their doctored footage and openly lie to manipulate their gullible followers, liberal websites and comedy shows often succeed because they just let the raw footage speak for itself.
Nothing Jason Rapert says needs to be edited to make him look ignorant. His views, in full, are absurd enough.
In response to his silly request, attorneys for the American Humanist Association and the Freedom From Religion Foundation pointed out that he’s a state senator talking about a law he wrote. This isn’t some private issue involving people normally outside the spotlight.
Sen. Rapert regularly and voluntarily appears in the media and on social media… He is clearly a public figure… This lawsuit involves a matter of public interest… [The] Plaintiffs see no reason to agree to a restriction that prevents counsel from showing the deposition to our own clients. Nor should they be required to anticipate other uses that might be appropriate in order to protect their right to use the deposition.
The Satanic Temple was even more blunt in its response:
As a public figure who generally and repeatedly injects himself into the issue of separation of church, and specifically injects himself to this case, Sen. Rapert has no expectation of privacy with respect to his deposition footage.
Further, it is curious that Sen. Rapert is “absolutely convinced” that the deposition will “cause him extreme embarrassment and harassment”… Assuming he tells the truth in his deposition, and is firmly convicted in his story, it is unclear what could possibly be so embarrassing about the contents of his deposition. Sen. Rapert’s concern about the possibility of “extreme embarrassment and harassment,” due to the deposition, is misplaced because he subjects himself to that very commentary on a regular basis.
They also rightly point out that a videotaped deposition lets people see “facial tics” and body language that a written transcript just can’t provide.
There’s absolutely no reason for a judge to grant Rapert’s motion. He isn’t being persecuted just because people want his answers on the record and potentially made public. He’s a lawmaker who writes bad laws. If he can defend his actions, he has nothing to worry about. In fact, he should be demanding that the entire deposition be made public and volunteer to post it online himself so that everyone can see his wisdom on display.
Max Brantley of the Arkansas Times is extending that offer, too:
How about Senator Rapert agree to give a full copy of the deposition to the Arkansas Times? I would promise to post the entire deposition, without editing, online.
I’m comfortable the full, unedited words and demeanor of Jason Rapert will speak for themselves. If they proved prejudicial to the state’s defense of this suit over Rapert’s religious monument, he’d have no one to blame but himself.
The fact that Rapert would prefer to suppress himself shows you he’s taking the cowardly approach. The atheists and Satanists and ACLU called his bluff, and now he has to answer for his actions. He’s scared to death that he’ll have to answer questions honestly without the Bible and bluster that usually accompany his Facebook videos.
Conservative Christians and honesty don’t mix.
Rapert posted about his predicament late last night, acting like he’s doing Christianity a huge favor by agreeing to be deposed.
Judging by all the “Hail Satans,” he doesn’t seem to be garnering much sympathy.
(Portions of this article were published earlier)