The Westboro Baptist Church is currently the subject of several top WeThePeople.gov White House petitions, with hundreds of thousands of people requesting the WBC officially be recognized as a “hate group.”
On the White House petition site, docs like the one referencing the Westboro Baptist Church are afforded an official response if they reach 100,000 signatures.
Not only did the petition to “legally recognize Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group” garner necessary signatures, several others in the same vein received similar support from citizens wishing a more formal approach to the WBC’s tactics. (At current, Westboro Baptist Church actions tend to be handled locally by individual groups with interest in protecting their targets.)
The official White House response to the Westboro Baptist Church petition begins, stating that declaring the WBC a hate group does not fall under the powers of the federal government:
“The We the People Terms of Participation explain that ‘the White House may decline to address certain procurement, law enforcement, adjudicatory, or similar matters properly within the jurisdiction of federal departments or agencies, federal courts, or state and local government.’ … To the extent that these petitions request a particular law enforcement or adjudicatory action, we cannot issue a comment. In addition, as a matter of practice, the federal government doesn’t maintain a list of hate groups. That’s the prerogative of private organizations like the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center.”
The WeThePeople Westboro Baptist Church statement continues, noting that within the scope of the law, the White House has, in the past, attempted to shield victims of WBC protests from their traumatic actions:
That all said, 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. That’s why he signed a law to ensure that protesters keep an appropriate distance at military funerals. As the President has said, ‘The graves of our veterans are hallowed ground, and when men and women die in the service of their country and are laid to rest, it should be done with the utmost honor and respect.’
The response continues:
“Moreover, one of the remarkable things about this set of petitions is that it shows just how strong the bonds that unite us can be. Together, we’re more resilient than those who would try to drive us apart.”
“Take, for instance, this map of all the signers of the petition ‘Legally recognize Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group’ — that we built with the zip codes that people chose to share with us when they signed. The darker color indicates a higher percentage of signers for that particular area’s population. While support for these petitions came from all over the country, it was densely clustered in two places that have unique insight into the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church — Kansas, the state the church calls home, and Newtown, Connecticut, where the church threatened to picket the funerals of those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary.”
While the Westboro Baptist Church White House petition was not fully successful, the response did seem to recognize overall concern about the WBC. Do you think it’s possible to sanction the group within the bounds of the First Amendment and honoring right of assembly?