Hundreds of thousands of people have signed an online petition to the White House calling for the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church to be officially designated as a "hate group."
The groundswell of support for the petition, filed Dec. 14, came after the Westboro group vowed to protest the funerals of victims of the mass-shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school. So far 259,445 people have signed what has turned out to be the most popular petition on the White House's We the People site. Only 25,000 signatures are required to receive an official response from the president, the Huffington Post reports.Meanwhile, the Fox Nation web site had another label for the group: "Left-Wing Westboro Cult." In a Dec. 20 write-up of a counter-protest held in Newtown, Conn., the Fox Nation article said: "Bikers Turn Out to Protect Newtown Mourners from Left-Wing Westboro Cult," and referred to its leader as "Democrat Fred Phelps." The Fox Nation language is drawing a firestorm of criticism on the internet.
The controversial group is known for picketing funerals of U.S. soldiers, or anyone else killed by what they deem to be "God's judgment." A member of the Westboro Baptist church claimed the elementary school shooting occurred because Connecticut had legalized same-sex marriage, Huffington Post reported.
There are two other petitions on the White House's site requesting that the congregation's tax-exempt status be revoked. Both have also surpassed the 25,000 signature threshold.