"Westboro will picket Sandy Hook Elementary School to sing praise to God for the glory of his work in executing his judgment," tweeted church spokesman Shirley Phelps-Roger. When news that Westboro Baptist Church planned to show up in Newton and shout praises for the death of those children became public knowledge the nation was outraged. A petition on the White House website was started to have the group labeled a hate group. The petition states in part "Their 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". Once a petition reaches 25,000 signatures the White House is required to respond to the petition. Over 260,000 people have emailed the White House in support of this action. Other petitions exist to revoke their tax-exempt status.
Westboro is infamous for protesting military and other high profile funerals or vigils spouting anti-gay rhetoric and jubilation at the death of the individual as punishment from God for the country condoning the gay lifestyle. The Supreme Court ruled the group is practicing their First Amendment right. Should the right of freedom of speech supersede the recipient's right against undo mental anguish? In response to the court ruling, President Obama signed the Honoring America's Veterans Act restricting protests to be held at least 300 feet from military funerals and prohibited two hours before or after a service.
The church is primarily composed of family members of founder Fred Phelps. They are not the first church to blame catastrophes on homosexual acceptance. Jerry Falwell blamed 9/11 on the gays. They are one of many churches with indirect political agenda. They are however, the first to celebrate the violence as retribution.
Are they the same as say the KKK. Both groups deplore a particular group. The Westboro protesters do not actually make a call for violence. A hate group is defined as an organized group or movement that advocates and practices hatred, hostility, or violence towards members of a race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation or other designated sector of society. So the debate begins, is unpopular speech hate speech? In the above definition violence is not mandated for a hate group.
Although the celebratory demeanor of the Westboro Baptist Church at the death of others is extremely unpopular, it is unlikely the President will label the church a hate group. The American public quickly organizes countermeasures to thwart the groups planned appearances. Some communities have taken actions to deter the group from returning in the future. These include unlawful actions such as slashing tires and refusing to sell them replacement tires. It is true their deplorable "dancing on babies graves" intentions cause extreme distress and mental anguish to others, the Church has not threatened violence or committed any illegal acts.
Photo source: Wikipedia