The Obama Administration is being petitioned to label the Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group, reports say.
The “Legally recognize Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group” petition, which can be reviewed here, has already received more than 260,000 signatures since it was launched, on December 14.
According to Christian Today, the group sparked controversy when it announced it would picket the Newtown, Connecticut victims' vigil.
The protest was publicized via Twitter by Westboro member Shirley Phelps-Roper, who posted that they intended to “sing praise to God for the glory of his work in executing his judgment.”
Another member, Margie Phelps, noted that the shooting was a direct result of the state of Connecticut legalizing gay marriage, which prompted a response from God.
“Many more shooters, many more dead are coming,” Phelps is quoted by the same publication saying. In an interview, she brought a sign which read “God sent the shooter,” a photo of which is attached to this report.
Apart from targeting gay marriage, the group has also taken action against “military, Jewish people and even other Christians,” the petition accuses. In the past, the Westboro group picketed soldiers' funerals, also labeling the officers' deaths as God's judgment.
“This group has been recognized as a hate group by organizations, such as The Southern Poverty Law Center, and has repeatedly displayed the actions typical of hate groups. […] They pose a threat to the welfare and treatment of others and will not improve without some form of imposed regulation,” the petition reads.
Having reached its goal of gathering 25,000 signatures, it will have to be reviewed by White house officials. Westboro already won a Supreme Court suit last year, allowing them to protest at military funerals, under their First Amendment rights.
However, the lawsuit prompted new legislation, requiring members of the group to keep a distance of 300 feet (91 m) from the venue of said military processions.