Petition asks Washington to classify Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group

Hundreds of thousands of Americans are fighting back against Westboro Baptist Church, hoping President Obama and others in Washington will recognize the church as a hate group.

As of 10 p.m. Thursday night, nearly 285,000 people had signed the "We the People" White House digital petition.  It was created shortly after the Topeka-based church announced they would picket the funerals of the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting victims.

The petition has become the most popular petition to be submitted to the site.

Created December 14, the petition sites the change in status for the group because, "Their actions have been directed at many groups … and they pose a threat to the welfare and treatment of others and will not improve without some form of imposed regulation."

41 Action News asked several people their opinions on the petition.  Some said it is a move in the right direction, to stop Westboro Baptist Church from their current practices.

"Personally, I do feel it crosses those lines, with as far as they've taken it," said Georgia Gregory of Wichita.

"I just don't think they should go to the funerals and do what they do.  As a Christian myself, I wouldn't do that," Jan Stallard of Independence said.

Others said they too do not support the group, but find it difficult to want to stop them, knowing it is their right to voice their opinions.

"Some of the things they talk about and do, it's wrong to people.  They definitely are targeting demographics of people, which could be a hate crime, but, we can't limit people's voices.  It's important we have people out there that stand for something," Ryan Fields of Kansas City said.

"They can say what they want to say, but I can say what I want to say also, and just because we don't care to hear what they have to say, they shouldn't care what we have to say either," Tina Campbell of Palm City, Fla. said.

The group does not care what others have to say.  They said they will not let the small petition get in the way of what they truly believe in.

"Out of 330 million Americans, until you have 330 on that petition, I'm not going to be impressed, and that petition is going to change exactly nothing," Rachel Hockenbarger, spokesperson for Westboro Baptist Church, said.

The petition expires January 13.  Two days later, two other petitions expire, which call for the group's tax-exempt status to be revoked.

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