Westboro Baptists Are Broadly Reviled, White House Shows

By Joseph Marks

July 3, 2013

This post has been updated to clarify details of the White House response.

In response to a petition asking the president to designate the Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group, the White House used a mapping tool to show how widely Americans revile the controversial Kansas church.

“G.B.” from Spring, Texas posted the petition to the White House’s We the People site in December 2012, just days after the Westboro Baptists threatened to picket the funerals of some of the 20 children killed by a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. It was one of dozens of popular We the People petitions posted in the days after Sandy Hook, many of which focused on gun control.

The Westboro Baptists are best known for picketing the funerals of U.S. soldiers killed in action, which the group believes is god’s punishment for America condoning homosexuality.

Signatures on the petition came from all over the country but were especially strong near Newtown and in Kansas, where the Westboro Baptists are based, according to the White House map. The map was built with a streaming data tool developed during a White House hackathon.

“One of the remarkable things about this set of petitions is that it shows just how strong the bonds that unite us can be,” the White House response said. “Together, we’re more resilient than those who would try to drive us apart.”

The administration's response to G.B.'s petition also addressed four other similar petitions. The White House called the funeral protests “reprehensible” but declined to comment on the specifics of the petitions, saying they were law enforcement matters.

The White House also responded on Tuesday to a petition asking to recount the 2012 presidential election, which charged electoral fraud in some Ohio counties. The response used data from the Ohio Secretary of State’s office to demonstrate the petitioners’ allegations were incorrect. 

By Joseph Marks

July 3, 2013