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Another Dumb White House Petition

Here’s another pointless petition on the White House’s We the People website. It calls on the government to “legally recognize Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group.” This is the actual text of the petition:

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.

Their actions have been directed at many groups, including homosexuals, military, Jewish people and even other Christians. They pose a threat to the welfare and treatment of others and will not improve without some form of imposed regulation.

But there is no such legal status under any American law. The government does not designate “hate groups.” They’re asking the government to do something it has no authority to do.

Comments

  1. says

    As much as Westboro is a group of people I wouldn’t piss on if they were on fire; they still have the same first amendment rights as any other US citizen. Including white supremacist.

  2. Doug Little says

    Although I think the Westboro Church are a bunch of complete wankers, they do more harm to Christianity than anything else, so there’s that.

  3. imrryr says

    It’s also ‘nice’ to have them around to use an example of how Christians are not actually being persecuted in this country despite Bryan Fischer’s claims to the contrary.

  4. says

    First, have there been ANY petitions on the White House site that were not pointless? It seems that the purpose of the petition site is to lance the boil of crazy in this country.

    Second, I can see them getting put on a terrorist watchlist if their antics continue to escalate — it scares me that the senior Phelch is the only inmate in the asylum with enough legal savvy to keep them from crossing the line — but the idea of a government-maintained “hate group” list frightens me. It would be far too easy to turn something like that into an organ for suppressing legitimate dissent.

  5. greg1466 says

    I assume that the petitioner is oblivious to the fact that if the petition is granted, it would also apply to a rather significant percentage of all churches in the country. If not the majority of them.

  6. Didaktylos says

    One thing I’ve wondered about is just how long WBC will keep going once old Fred pops his clogs.

  7. says

    “I assume that the petitioner is oblivious to the fact that if the petition is granted, it would also apply to a rather significant percentage of all churches in the country. If not the majority of them.”

    Where do I sign?

  8. anandine says

    Specifically, they are asking for an exemption to the first amendment for speech against gays. In this they are like Muslims asking to criminalize defaming Mohammed. Fuck ‘em both.

  9. dingojack says

    Perhaps they can get Westburro Baptist Church declared a ‘terrorist organisation’ – that usually doesn’t work out so good for those so (unilaterally) declared. Drones anyone?
    Dingo

  10. says

    I’m not even sure they can be declared a terrorist group. AFAIK, they’ve never blown anything up or threatened to kill anyone. Phelps and many members of his family are lawyers and they are very careful not commit or threaten to commit any acts of violence in public. All they do is wave signs and shout. As vile as their message is, they have First Amendment rights.

    If being an obnoxious attention whore makes you a terrorist, then Donald Trump, Snookie, and Sarah Palin are terrorists, too.

  11. says

    I think the petitioners may be confused because the FBI investigates hate crimes and in doing so talks about hate groups.
    If the WBC killed a gay person it would be considered a hate crime and the press people at the FBI would likely refer to the WBC as a hate group (the term does appear on FBI web pages).

    Once organizations are associated with hate crimes they may be monitored to a certain extent. Not that I agree with it but I wouldn’t be surprised if the FBI tried to keep an eye on the KKK and similar groups.

  12. davidct says

    One thing about the WBC is that they are a clear example of where religious beliefs can lead. They do more to undermine religious authority than most secular efforts. Acting to limit their rights only diminishes our own.

  13. says

    Who says? The US, Israel, The UK? Who?

    Umm, the definition of terrorism. The use of violence or threat of violence to intimidate and/or coerce.

  14. regexp says

    Here is how you deal with Westboro. You ignore them. Is it really that hard? Its rather pathetic that a sad little band of people who hold up idiotic signs and issue carbon copy press releases every other week manage to get the best of people time and time again.

  15. says

    Like others have said, they are a hate group, but that’s not the sort of thing I’d want governments to make explicit, since it’d make way for discrimination against any unpopular group.

  16. says

    Gretchen,
    You are 100% correct that it is free speech not terrorism. However, the definition of terrorism is extremely hard to nail down. Your one sentence definition covers a lot of things that not everyone would consider terrorism. I think a better response would be… under what definition does something the WBC did constitute terrorism?

    Anyway, you are right I just think we should be careful about defining terrorism.

  17. Loqi says

    @regexp
    No, don’t ignore them. Give them all the publicity they want. Put their faces everywhere and broadcast every word they say. Make them household names. Make them the face of the anti-gay rights movement (and Christianity, if possible).
    People always tell me that what they want is publicity. That’s absolutely true. But telling me to ignore them misses an important fact: I don’t care what they want. I care what I want. I want equal rights for LGBTs. One way to help with that is to make sure everyone sees what the anti gay movement really looks like. Therefore, I want everyone to see and hear these people. I want people to hear “I’m for traditional marriage” and think to themselves “Ugh, it’s one of those ‘god hates fags’ people.” If that gives the WBC the attention they crave, then so be it. In the end, I care more about equality than I do about making sure some odious shitheads don’t get famous.

  18. jba55 says

    @Loqi: Yes, exactly. I’ve always had a problem with the “just ignore them” attitude with regards to WBC and you’ve explained why much, much better than I ever did. Thank you, I’m stealing it.

  19. anubisprime says

    Loqi @ 23

    Absolutely…give them all the exposure possible…let the media go to the most ‘famous’ most identifiable faces against ‘gay rights’
    Let the people hear just how much bitterness and hatred these evil little muppets have for a significant section of society, for the military, for the dead, give them the rope!

    Let all the anti-ghey legions forever be cursed with the association of the cause.

    They will never recover…just another rusty tetanus smeared nail in the collective xtian coffin.

  20. says

    This reminds me of the other recent petition asking Obama to repeal DOMA. A friend on Facebook posted the link at least once a day saying we should all sign it. I pointed out that Obama can’t unilaterally repeal legislation, and the process has to be initiated by Congress. That being the case, I offered that he’d be better off going directly to congressional reps. His response was that the petition made him feel good and he felt like he was doing something, and I was just too cynical to understand. I ran out of face to palm.

  21. Michael Heath says

    mattsmith writes:

    This reminds me of the other recent petition asking Obama to repeal DOMA. A friend on Facebook posted the link at least once a day saying we should all sign it. I pointed out that Obama can’t unilaterally repeal legislation, and the process has to be initiated by Congress. That being the case, I offered that he’d be better off going directly to congressional reps. His response was that the petition made him feel good and he felt like he was doing something, and I was just too cynical to understand. I ran out of face to palm.

    All modern-day presidential administrations effectively initiate many bills, including this president. The president has allies in Congress; the chances are excellent some of those allies would sponsor a bill to repeal DOMA if the president requested they initiate a bill and committed himself to use his bully pulpit to promote that bill’s passage.

    Of course this approach doesn’t guarantee passage, but it does falsify your having a ‘face to palm’ moment against those who initiated this petition request.

  22. chriscroy says

    The federal government does kind of legally designate “hate groups”. A non-profit can be stripped of their tax-exempt status for practicing actions which constitute hate crimes as defined in 28 USC § 534. They are “crimes that manifest prejudice based on “race, gender and gender identity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity”. The key word there is “crimes”. They can say God hates fags, they just can’t start lynching gays without jeopardizing their tax exempt status.

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