White House: Westboro protests ‘reprehensible’

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House says it can’t fulfill a request to deem a group that protests at soldiers’ funerals a hate group. But it says President Barack Obama believes such actions are reprehensible.

The Obama administration is responding to petitions through the White House website to label the Westboro Baptist Church a hate group and revoke its tax-exempt status. Almost 700,000 people signed five related petitions.

The group claims when American troops die, it’s God’s punishment for America tolerating homosexuality and abortion.

The White House says the federal government doesn’t maintain a list of hate groups. But it’s releasing a map showing where the petition-signers come from. The map shows high density in Kansas, where the Westboro group is based, and Connecticut, where church members threatened to picket Newtown victims’ funerals.

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