Users of the White House's "We the People" digital petition platform have flooded the site in support of an effort to officially designate the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group.
The most popular petition was submitted on Dec. 14, the same day as the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., an incident that Westboro responded to by announcing its intent to picket the funerals of the 26 victims, including 20 young children. This plan made them a prime target of hacktivist group Anonymous and eventually drew a well-attended counter-protest to block the church's followers from disrupting the services.
The individual push has since received the support of nearly 250,000 signees, making it the most popular single petition ever created through the White House initiative. It recently cruised past a call for federal action on gun control, which along with a number of other petitions on the issue of gun rights, drew a response from President Barack Obama last week.
But the quarter-million signature effort to recognize Westboro as a hate group is also getting a boost from two other petitions calling for the congregation's tax-exempt status to be revoked. Both of those have also crossed the 25,000 signature threshold needed to prompt a response from the administration.
Official action has been taken against Westboro's most frequently utlized weapon -- its highly inflammatory, anti-gay displays at military funerals -- though not directly against the church itself. In August, Obama signed the Honoring America's Veterans Act, which declared that protests must be held at least 300 feet from military funerals and were prohibited two hours before or after a service.