The Westboro Baptist Church operates as a tax-exempt church. While it speaks volumes that many Americans value their right to free speech, this does not mean that we have to pay for their vitriol.
The WBC is not and should never have been considered a legitimate church for tax-exemption purposes, and this could be declared so either directly or with legislation affirming any or all of the following:
1) The WBC does not engage in any charity comparable in scope to their public image. They are only known for hate.
2) The WBC is not inclusive of its surrounding community, restricting membership. It is regarded by some as a tax shelter for its family's law operations.
3) The WBC uses invective speech under its name, actively denigrating classes of people - soldiers, homosexuals, and others
Response to Petition
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.
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.”
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.
Take a look:
(Made with the Where the People tool developed by Mick Thompson at the White House Open Data Day Hackathon)