I’ve made no secret of the fact that I find the Obama White House’s “We the People” petition website to be mostly a joke. Most of the petitions are pointless and most of the responses little more than a string of nonsensical platitudes. But I like part of their response to petitions demanding that the Westboro Baptist Church be officially designated a “hate group.”
To the extent that these petitions request a particular law enforcement or adjudicatory action, we cannot issue a comment. In addition, as a matter of practice, the federal government doesn’t maintain a list of hate groups. That’s the prerogative of private organizations like the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center.
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– a point that President Obama has made for years.
I like the first part. Those petitions, which wanted the federal government to “legally recognize the Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group,” were based on ignorance. There is no such legal status in this country and the White House can’t just invent one of thin air.
I don’t like the second part because it focuses on military funerals only. Long before the WBC protested at military funerals, they protested at the funerals of people they thought were gay and no one seemed to care much. It was only when they started protesting at military funerals that the whole nation freaked out and started passing laws against it. Soldiers are no more worthy of such protection than anyone else, which is why the obsessive focus only on military funerals needs to go away.