White House Refuses to Label Westboro Church a Hate Group

Image: White House Refuses to Label Westboro Church a Hate Group

Friday, 05 Jul 2013 09:23 AM

By Courtney Coren

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The White House has turned down the request of 367,000 petitioners to label the infamous Westboro Baptist Church a hate group, saying it is not the place of the federal government to do so.

The church has become notorious for picketing funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, supposedly in protest of homosexuality.

The official response of the White House to the request to "legally recognize Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group" was no comment

"To the extent that these petitions request a particular law enforcement or adjudicatory action, we cannot issue a comment," the White House said.

"As a matter of practice, the federal government doesn't maintain a list of hate groups," the White House said. "That's the prerogative of private organizations like the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center."

The petition was submitted on the White House's "We the People" website, where if a petition reaches 100,000 signatures, the White House has promised to issue an official response.

The petition to label Westboro Baptist Church far exceeded the necessary requirement for an official response.

Even though the White House would not officially call the tiny Topeka, Kan.-based church a hate group, it did condemn its practices.

"We agree that practices such as protesting at the funerals of men and women who
died in service to this country and preventing their families from mourning peacefully are reprehensible — a point that President Obama has made for years," the statement said.

In 2012, Obama signed a law designating the time and proximity of protests at military funerals, following a 2011 Supreme Court ruling that upheld Westboro's right to free speech, which allowed the church to hold protests at funerals.

Westboro Baptist Church members typically hold signs and shout at family and friends attending soldiers' funerals, saying things such as "Thank God for dead soldiers."

Fred Phelps, the pastor at the church believes that God allows the soldiers to die as a punishment to the country for "the sin of homosexuality."

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