(WASHINGTON) — The White House says it won’t classify the Westboro Baptist Church as a “hate group” in response to petitions filed at WhiteHouse.gov.
That doesn’t mean the White House reserves judgment.
“As a matter of practice, the federal government doesn’t maintain a list of hate groups,” said the official White House response. “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.”
The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), an unaffiliated Baptist church of around 50 members, has picketed the funerals of service members and Newtown, Conn., school shooting victims in the name of its anti-gay ideology.
The church recently announced via Twitter that it would picket the funerals of the 19 Arizona firefighters who died attempting to contain a wildfire.
“Praise God,” the tweet read. “A consuming fire!”
The White House response also chronicled the location and the number of signatures on the five petitions attempting to classify the WBC as a hate group and revoke its IRS tax-exempt status.
Signatures concentrated around the Kansas region, where the WBC is located, and Newtown, Conn. – where the church picketed the funerals of children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December.
The largest petition – “Legally recognize Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group” – netted 367,180 signatures.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Azadeh Ansari and Angela Dewan, CNN
Dakin Andone, CNN
Mike Price, EastIdahoNews.com
Dylan Byers, CNN