You’d be hard-pressed to think of a group less beloved in the United States than the Westboro Baptist Church. A number of petitions about the group were posted on the White House’s “We The People” site requesting that the WBC officially be labeled as a hate group and that its tax-exempt status be revoked, all posted around the time the group announced that they would be protesting the funerals of the children killed at Sandy Hook. The White House finally issued a response this week to the petitions, thought it might not be one the petitioners were hoping for.
The petitions have a combined signature total of almost 675,000, and two of them passed the 100,000 signature threshold required to garner an official response from the White House. The White House’s response invokes their Terms of Participation to explain their refusal to comment on either the tax-exemption requests or hate group labels.
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.
Instead, the White House uses the space to share a graphic charting where in the country the petitions were signed from. Most of them were concentrated in Newtown, Connecticut and Kansas, the state where the WBC is based.
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