Thousands have signed two separate petitions that would classify Topeka’s Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group and strip it of its tax exempt status. The petitions were started after members of Westboro announced plans to protest a Sunday vigil in Newtown, Conn.
After Westboro Baptist Church spokesperson Shirey Phelps-Roper tweeted plans to protest the vigil, “to sing praise to God for the glory of his work in executing his judgement,” the hacktivist group known as “Anonymous” threatened the church via video. In it, an automated voice says, “We will not allow you to corrupt the minds of America with your seeds of hatred. We will not allow you to inspire aggression to the social faction which you deem inferior. We will render you obsolete. We will destroy you. We are coming.”
In addition to the video, Anonymous hacked Westboro’s website and released personal information about church members including names, street addresses, phone numbers and email addresses according to CNET.
Anonymous didn’t stop there. Using its Twitter account, Anonymous asked its followers to sign a petition that would investigate the IRS tax-exempt status of the church. As stated on the White House website, the petition claims: “The Westboro Baptist Church is better-known for homophobic displays, suing people and picketing funerals than for providing Christian care to a community. Due to their harassment and politicking, their IRS tax-exempt status should be immediately investigated.”
The petition has far exceeded the 16,062 signatures needed before the White House will review the petition.
Another petition aims at stripping Westboro of its “religious” affiliation and classifying it as a hate group. As stated in part on the White House website, Westboro’s “actions have been directed at many groups, including homosexuals, military, Jewish people and even other Christians. They pose a threat to the welfare and treatment of others and will not improve without some form of imposed regulation.”
Nearly 280,000 people have signed this petition, which makes it the most supported single petition on the White House website.