By Tracy Bloom
Dec 18, 2012
Despite its vitriolic activities and protests that are political in nature, the hate group Westboro Baptist Church has somehow managed to keep its IRS tax-exempt status. But after its publicly announced plans to picket the funerals of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting “to sing praise to God for the glory of his work in executing his judgment,” as church spokeswoman (and daughter of its pastor, Fred Phelps) Shirley Phelps-Roper tweeted, tens of thousands of people have signed petitions hoping to change that.
Three petitions have popped up on the White House’s We the People site to investigate and strip the bigoted organization of its tax-exempt status. All three have garnered the more than 25,000 signatures needed for the Obama administration to review them. A separate petition calling on the White House to legally classify the Topeka, Kan.-based WBC as a hate group has also reached the threshold for an official White House response, with more than 185,000 people signing it as of Tuesday morning.
Some of these petitions have been promoted online by the hacktivist collective known as Anonymous. The group targeted Westboro Baptist Church on Monday, hacking its website, taking over Phelps-Roper’s Twitter account and releasing personal information about the church’s members on the Internet.
Of the three tax petitions, the “Investigate the IRS Tax-Exempt Status of the Westboro Baptist Church” one has gotten the most people to sign it so far. It states:
“The Westboro Baptist Church is better-known for homophobic displays, suing people and picketing funerals than for providing Christian care to a community. Due to their harassment and politicking, their IRS tax-exempt status should be immediately investigated.”
Another petition asks the Obama administration to remove the group’s 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status and make it retroactive. That one reads:
The WBC is not and should never have been considered a legitimate church for tax-exemption purposes, and this could be declared so either directly or with legislation affirming any or all of the following: