Protest of Westboro Baptist Church erupts on the Web


Sandy Hook outdoor memorial (ABC News)
Sandy Hook outdoor memorial (ABC News)

After the Westboro Baptist Church posted on Twitter its intention to picket the Newtown, Conn., site where 26  shooting victims died, including 20 children, hackers retaliated.

The reason for the protest? Reportedly because Connecticut has legalized same-sex marriage.

Shirley Phelps-Roper, a spokesperson for the Topeka, Kan., Westboro church and daughter of church founder Fred Phelps, put on Twitter, "Westboro will picket Sandy Hook Elementary School to sing praise to God for the glory of his work in executing his judgment."

Over the weekend, the hacktivist group Anonymous posted what it said was church members' personal information. In a video posted on Vimeo, the hacker group accused the organization of "breeding hatred" and adding, "We will destroy you. We are coming."

The Anonymous site has also directed readers to an online petition, found at a portal on the White House website, asking that the church's tax-exempt status be investigated. Over 9,000 signatures have been added. The petition reads in part:

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, found at the same portal, wants the Westboro Baptist Church to be identified as a hate group, not a religious group. It  notes that the church has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and has "repeatedly displayed the actions typical of hate groups." That petition has received over 107,000 signatures so far.

Westboro Baptist Church members have been present at funerals for victims of mass shootings in Tucson, Ariz., and Aurora, Colo.

Citing the First Amendment, the Supreme Court ruled on Westboro's behalf that it may protest at funerals.