Westboro Baptist Church is legally recognized as a religious organization and therefore receives a tax exempt status under our laws. The Phelps family and their supporters use these tax exempt funds to finance a country-wide campaign against any person or group they feel promotes values that do not meet with their own. Most prominently they are anti-gay.
The members of this hate group make a practice of targeting funerals to make their case, routinely inflicting further pain and anguish onto the mourning families of deceased soldiers and, even worse, the victims of tragic crimes. They hold signs thanking God and celebrating the deaths of these people. They wave these signs in the faces of the families.
By granting their tax exemption WE ARE FUNDING THEIR HATE. This must change.
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)