The Westboro Baptist Church, the controversial group known for protesting outside funerals of slain U.S. service members, announced that it will picket a vigil for the victims of Friday’s Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the second-deadliest school shooting in American history.
Shirley Phelps-Roper, a spokesperson for the group and, like most members of the organization, a relative of the group’s founder, Fred Phelps, announced on Twitter on Saturday the group’s plan "to sing praise to God for the glory of his work in executing his judgment."
Members of the Westboro Baptist Church say that America is being punished for its acceptance of gays and lesbians. In recent days, Phelps family members have sent tweets about the Connecticut shooting that have said "God sent the shooter."
Not surprisingly, the group’s announcement was met with resistance online. A Change.org petition asking for Connecticut officials to prevent the group from protesting has been launched, and users of the social news and link sharing site Reddit have been discussing ways to stage a counter-protest.
A Facebook event that calls for "counter-activity" to "keep any hatred from touching" the grieving families has over 10,000 attendees, but because of a bomb threat in Newtown on Sunday, the event has been cancelled.
Anonymous, the loosely affiliated group of Internet "hacktivists," said that it had hacked the group’s website and released personal information about the group’s members, according to The Inquisitr.
The Southern Poverty Law Center calls the Westboro Baptist Church "arguably the most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America," while the Anti-Defamation League calls it "a small virulently homophobic, anti-Semitic hate group."
In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Westboro Baptist Church, saying that the right to picket funerals was protected under the First Amendment. President Obama earlier this year, however, signed legislation that said that protests must be held 300 feet from military funerals.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story indicated that WBC members would picket Sandy Hook Elementary School. The vigil is at Newtown High School. Additionally, an earlier version of this story called the shooting "the second-largest mass killing in American history." It is the second-deadliest school shooting.