Anonymous declares religious war on Westboro Baptist Church

Some people using the Anonymous banner have declared religious war on the Westboro Baptist Church, the real-life "God hates fags" trolls who have announced their intention to picket the funerals of the children shot in Sandy Hook. In addition to publishing a list of purported home addresses and phone numbers of alleged Westboro members, the Anons have released a videos that sets out chapter-and-verse citations of Biblical injunctions that Westboro is said to have violated, and promises to punish all of them.

In response to the WBC's plans early today, Anonymous tweeted, "It's so nice of #WBC to provide the internet with a list of their twitter handles..." Roughly one hour later, they revealed their plans for the WBC: "#WBC GodHatesFags Site Admin gets #DOX'd via: Anonymous." DOX, of course, refers to the work Anonymous did to find and publish a list of WBC members complete with e-mails, phone numbers, and even home addresses—all for the adoring public to access.

In addition to the DOXing, Anonymous has repeatedly promoted a petition to have the WBC recognized legally as a hate-group. The petition was created on Friday and it has already doubled the required 25,000 signatures.

Anonymous sets sights on an old enemy—the Westboro Baptist Church [Nathan Mattise/Ars Technica]


  1. So, Trolls trolling trolls again then?
    Problem is, I think this is exactly the kind of attention the WBC wants. Didn’t they even fake a “hacking” of their own website a while back? Anything to make them appear like victims and martyrs rather than predators.

    1. Can you show me anybody who’s sympathetic enough to the WBC to *treat* them as victims and martyrs? That would be new information to me.

      1. Not yet I can’t (thank Dog), but give it a few months of Anonymus-style harassments and we’ll have this conversation again. My pont is: they want this fight for some reason. They are, quite literally, begging for it. Wich makes me very cautious about weather we should let them have it.

        1. Let them have it. They’ll only be martyrs in their own minds. Everyone hates the WBC because the WBC has made it explicitly clear that they hate everyone else. It doesn’t matter what they think about the outcome, because they’re already nutty as can be. And there won’t be a significant number of people outside of the WBC who take their side on this one. If they hadn’t picketed soldiers’ funerals during the Bush administration, some whack-job right-wing talk show host would construe this as part of “Obama’s War on Christianity,” but these idiots already went and made enemies of the whole nation when a Republican was still in office.

          I could maybe imagine a few wingnuts still clinging to that “war on christians” narrative if the administration took action on this except for the fact that the WBC is threatening to picket the funerals of dead children right now. It’s very hard for anyone to stand by that kind of bullshit. I think even Coulter would have a hard time with that (okay, maybe not Coulter). If the administration acts fast enough (while we’re still angry about the shooting) they can classify these guys as terrorists and probably get away with it.

          1. Coulter is an actor playing a very well-paying role. She dates Dems from time to time, only her target demographic can’t tell that she’s not as horrible as her personal brand would indicate.

          2. C W: Coulter may well be an actor playing a role but that doesn’t change the fact that she’s decided to get paid to debase our culture, hinder productive dialogue, lower our standing in the eyes of our fellow nations, and make of herself a mocking husk of a human person. What one chooses to do with the lot they are given in life determines who they are. She has chosen to do something vile; therefore, she is precisely as horrible as her personal brand would indicate.

            If you know her well enough to know what she’s like outside of her brand, please pass along the message that the distinction is not only meaningless, but does not exist outside her own head.

        2. “they want this fight for some reason” – My understanding is that this has always been their business model. ‘Protest’ at highly public and emotionally charged events to incite people to respond and/or to infringe on their first amendment rights, and then sue. They’re a cult of lawyers.

          1. This is also what I’ve always heard as well.  Hearsay, rumor, don’t-believe-everything-you-read, YMMV, etc. but it sounds about on target to me.

      2. I find them a strange combination of sincere and troll, the only solution possible is for the media to stop republishing their PR feed. They’ve had what, billions of dollars worth of publicity?

        1. I actually wish the media would just do a better job of covering them. If everybody knew their little scam their revenue would start to diminish. It’s not like they’re converting anyone (or even trying to). Give them all the publicity they want so long as it’s accompanied by an honest record of who they are and what they’re really up to.

  2. So, this petition to have WBC “legally recognized as a hate group”… What would it do exactly? They’re scummy people but they still have freedom of speech, it’s not like the government can take that away from them just by calling them a hate group. I don’t know if they’re tax-exempt as a religious group, so I guess if they are the point would be to take that exemption away, but if they aren’t I don’t know of anything that could actually be done to them specifically.

          1. I think that it would be cooler if we saw a montage of all their tax forms at some end-of-year show.

      1. They’re still a legit church, they wouldn’t lose tax-exempt status because someone called them hateful. And if they did, they’d be soon getting another multimillion dollar settlement from the Federal government. And they would deserve it.

        This plan is asinine.

  3. “Some people using the Anonymous banner”

    Thank you, Cory, for writing it this way. Every time I have a conversation with someone about “what Anonymous thinks” I want to pull my hair out. Anonymous thinks EVERYTHING!

  4. Wow, that petition has nearly 100,000 signatures already. Whatever anyone’s opinions on the other aspects of this, it’s always amazing to see the sheer mobilization power of Anonymous.

  5. As a European, I need your insight, people. I’m aware of WBC and their being crazy. Picketing a gay person’s funeral is hateful and despicable and evil, but it makes (an awful kind of) sense: they hate gay people. Here, though, I don’t get it. Picketing the Sandy Hook children’s funerals? Do they hate kids?
    Please enlighten me.

    1. They are mega trolls. They picket gay funerals, comic cons, hockey games, soldiers funerals anywhere where they think they can incite people to act out against them so they can sue on first amendment grounds or what have you. It is how they finance themselves. I forget how many but a good amount of the church are lawyers.

      1.  Thank you very much for your explanation. I get it now, although it still doesn’t make any sense to me. Probably because it _is_ insane, though.

        1. They’ve turned trolling into a revenue stream, basically. I don’t think they even have anything against gay people. They just call themselves a church for the tax-exemption status, most likely.

          And yes, it IS insane.

          1. No, the religious aspect and hatred is very much real. They are after the attention because they think that will help spread their beliefs. The money is also just another means to that same end. 
            Check out some interviews with Nate Phelps about growing up in the cult:

          2. At least Fred actually does hate a number of the groups of people they picket, and they certainly disrespect everybody in the world even if they don’t care about all of them enough to actually hate them, but if they actually happen to hate the people they’re picketing, that’s just gravy on the trolling business.  Do they actually believe that God is letting Muslims kill American soldiers because he’s mad that America tolerates gay people?  I doubt it.

          3. @BillStewart2012:disqus I disagree, I am sure to him it is just sinners killing sinners. A win, win in his book. As crazy as it seems there really are people out there with these kinds of beliefs. They think natural disasters and tragedies are divine judgement and that we are in the end times. They read the bible and see a vengeful, jealous God who is perfectly fine with sacrificing the innocent just to make a point.

      2. “I forget how many but a good amount of the church are lawyers”

        All of the Church executives are, to my knowledge.

        1. I believe that’s how they stay funded.  They are very careful when they protest to not break any laws, but when the other side infringes on their rights, they sue the sh** out of them.

          1. And they deserve that money, as long as people attempt to “punish” them for their beliefs through unconstitutional means.

          2.  “Legally entitled to,” maybe, but not “deserve,” which has a moral connotation that just doesn’t apply to these scum.

          3. “which has a moral connotation that just doesn’t apply to these scum.”

            I’d say that anyone who tries to remove my civil liberties because they dislike my speech deserves what they get.

          4. Yeah, yeah, yeah; you’re a paragon of stick-up-the-ass consistency, we get it.

            Not these shitbags, sorry.

    2. 1) They believe their own horseshit. They really do think that God is punishing America for being soft on homosexuality (and they really think that the US is soft on it, and not actually pretty homophobic as a rule).

      2) They don’t care if you like them or agree with them. They really do believe that the bible commands them to testify and preach, and that’s what they do. It’s not because they think it will change anything, but solely because they think they’ve been commanded to do so, and they blindly follow that command. They’re not trying to convert anyone, they’re just making a show of themselves because they think that is what God demands.

      3) Every single one of them is a lawyer. Well, not all of them, but a lot of them. Fred Phelps was a pretty successful attorney in his time, and before he was disbarred he won more cases than he lost (frighteningly enough, he was a pretty successful civil rights lawyer who represented black clients in the south in the 60s). A lot of his kids are lawyers too. If you do anything at all to them that could be construed as assault or criminally menacing, they will see you in court. They go around the country stirring up anger, and then when someone’s anger boils over into full-blown aggression (which is pretty likely when you consider what emotions these people inspire) they sue that person for as much as they possibly can. Or, at least, they used to. More and more courts have been throwing their cases out, and more and more juries have been turning against them so that’s not as common as it used to be.

      The really sick thing about these people is the combination of those three things. They’re not just scammers. They’re not just lawyers who turned hate speech into a revenue stream. They really do believe in what they’re saying. They really do believe that God commands them to do this stuff. And they really do believe that turning that activity into a revenue stream is a morally justified and possibly even a blessed activity. Even though the revenue stream part of their act is drying up because people aren’t attacking them anymore and courts are hostile to them (and a few more of them have been disbarred), they still do their traveling road show of hate, because it’s not actually about the money to them. It really is about the hate.

      1. America really does need to get hard on homosexuality.

        We’re all talking about the same thing here, right?

      2. Yup. It’s fascinating how sincere and how excellent at trolling they are. And, also certainly how well they know civil rights law. 

        Pappy Phelps was a civil rights lawyer in the 60s, for all his horrible emotional and physical abuse on his children, he surely did a few good things in his time.

        I’m no fan of them, but it’s a fascinating story/group.

        People who don’t understand should watch Louis Theroux’s two documentaries on the Phelps clan.

        1. I think Fred is a believer. Even those of his kids who have escaped from the cult are pretty convinced of his belief in his own bullshit. Either way, he’s a sick man. When he finally dies (which the cult thinks is impossible before the rapture) it’s going to rock their tiny little world.

          1. Don’t get me wrong, he is more than likely insane and does believe what he says… but you never know – same goes for anyone high up in organised religion if you ask me.

        2. Fred doesn’t care if it’s true or not, and you can’t tell from interviews with anybody in the church how much of it they believe.  He does probably hate gay people, and certainly disrespects everybody else, but what he really cares about is whether _you_ believe he hates you enough to attack him or get your town to ban him (both of which can be profitable to him), or at least enough to give him free publicity by complaining about him.

    3. It’s about publicity for WBC. All of it. The more coverage they get, the more insane they become. Kind of like the Id Monster in Forbidden Planet: negative energy feeds their bullsh*t to infinity, and beyond. OK, random Toy Story film reference, too. 

      Seriously, though, WBC is a dangerous bunch of hate-mongering publicity whores. I’d LOVE to see their tax-exempt status revoked, but I’m not sure that the petition to have them tagged a hate group would move the game in that direction, unfortunately. 1st Amendment rights cover freedom of religion in addition to freedom of speech, so they’ve got a daily-double on their side. The Southern Poverty Law Center has listed them as a hate group, but that isn’t enough to kick them off the 501(c)3 rolls. Those rules (a good outline of those here: are pretty broadly defined, in that there’s plenty of room for really loathsome behavior with no risk of losing tax exemption. Sad, but true …

      1. There’s one way around that: get rid of tax exemptions on churches; have them run as a non-profit or not-for-profit unless they actually ARE a money-making enterprise, like every Megachurch and Televangelist ever.

        1. I agree whole-heartedly, but we’re in sliver-of-a-minority there. I grew up Catholic, am now a happy heathen-unbeliever-infidel. I know who taught the megachurches and televanelists how to roll. There’s LOTS of money, including lobbying firms, fighting against any move on church tax exemptions. And as long as the religionists are in the majority – and they are, by a wide margin – churches can amass wealth beyond counting.

    4. “they hate gay people”

      It’s not really gay people only that they hate. They believe EVERYONE is hellbound, and they take delight at pointing that out (they do not believe that they are going to heaven either.)

      They pick on gays, the military, popular culture, people who die in all sorts of horrible accidents, they’re essentially drawn more to controversy than specific hatred of a group of persons.

        1. He does take particular… delight in talking about the mechanics, but they glomp onto most sacred cows. They loooooooooooove targeting the military and other Christian sects because they can get the charismatics and Republicans riled up as well.

  6. The movie “Red State” is something you gotta see if you clicked on this article… also wasn’t there a law passed preventing them from picketing funerals? I suppose they could still picket on the sidewalk which is nearly as bad. :(

  7. I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. However, if you’re just gonna be an asshole, you’re on your own.

    1. They don’t need you to defend them to the death; enough of them are lawyers that they can successfully sue just about anybody who attacks them illegally.

      What they really don’t want is you telling your town council “no, you can’t ban them, it’s what they really want, because then they’ll sue you and win.”

  8. To be fair, there’s really no “Anonymous” The culture on places like 4chan or something are very isolated, and so the only people who would ever desire to be apart of a group are in almost complete opposition to the majority of the people that use those sites. Just needed to make that distinction. 

  9. The problem with freedom of speech is that people generally don’t get censored unless they say something so despicable that the majority wants to shut them up.  So defending freedom of speech necessarily involves defending scum like WBC from censorship by our government.  The signers of the petition are on the wrong side.

    We could have counterdemonstrations.  We could just say “Christians say some crazy shit” and let the other Bible-thumpers react.  We could ridicule them.  The set of tactics that we should reject are violence (since fear activates violence among authoritarian followers) and anything that will make money for WBC.

      1. Required reading for anyone trying to make sense of US political insanity, and to a lesser extent, anywhere tainted by authoritarian idiocy.

    1. “defending freedom of speech necessarily involves defending scum like WBC”

      It’s only necessary because that’s what your current laws allow. On the other side of the pond where freedom of expression isn’t so absolutist there are (IMO) sensible provisions in place to deal with people like this. Although the classic quote is snappy, you really don’t need to defend the right of these people to say what they want, so you can say what you want. Unless of course you’re also interested in perpetuating hate speech.

      1. I’m interested in perpetuating my own right to blaspheme, among other things that my neighbors would prefer were criminalized.  I could join the majority and try to get WBC to shut up, but then when it was time to shut ME up I wouldn’t have much of an argument.

        Find me the “sensible” distinction between the WBC doing a peaceful demonstration at a miltary funeral, and me doing a peaceful demonstration in front of the holiday creche on public property in my home town.

          1. If you think they would consider the two activities distinct, you haven’t met my neighbors.  These are the people who voted Steve King into Congress again this year (and not in a gerrymandered district, either).  They’d be happy to lock up someone for promoting atheism, on the grounds that it was “hate speech.”  Witness the reaction to atheist advertisements on buses in Des Moines recently, ads which did no more than point out the existence of atheists.  If I empower them to censor a “verbal attack,” they will use that power to stop me from saying anything like “I think Christians are mistaken.”  Won’t somebody think of the children??

            So I challenge you again to come up with a distinction between the hate speech and the non-hate speech, a distinction so clear that I’m not on the wrong side of it, even if my right-wing Bible-thumping neighbors are the jury.  If you can’t, then censorship of hate speech is a Bad Idea.

          2. I don’t know the ins and the outs off hand unfortunately, be we already have hate speech clauses in freedom of expression in Europe. I’d check those out – but the ‘hate’ part is pretty important, it’s pretty objective; again, to reference your example, claiming that Christians are wrong isn’t hate speech any more than claiming homosexuality is unnatural is hate speech – these are just opinions – it’s when you take that expression and escalate it that it becomes a problem – like performing a demonstration at a funeral.

        1. Find me the “sensible” distinction between the WBC doing a peaceful demonstration at a miltary funeral, and me doing a peaceful demonstration in front of the holiday creche on public property in my home town.

          It would be more like me carrying a picket sign on the public sidewalk outside your office announcing that you fuck your own children.  But I’m sure that you’d defend my right to speak freely on that issue.  And if it causes you any pain and distress, who gives a shit?  Because you’re going to Hell anyway, right?

      2. In your country, defending freedom of speech necessarily involves not only defending offensive scum, but also defending nice people who say things the government or other important people don’t like, and anything in between. 

        But as long as your laws are relatively well-defined, and have some mechanism for illegally harassed subjects to be compensated for it, trolls like this can figure out the boundary, stay on the legal side of it, and piss off enough people that there’s somebody to sue.  That may involve being less offensive than they are over here, but back around 1970s a friend of mine was in the UK on a high school football team trip and got arrested for singing “Give Ireland Back To The Irish”, which was banned in those days.

        1. Well we’re talking about what, the 80’s here? In a time of friction and terrorism and a seriously conservative government. This was, I believe, before the UK was subject to the EU’s freedom of expression laws and certainly before the human rights act – so a bit moot, as what you describe also isn’t hate speech (is hate speech really that difficult a concept for people to comprehend?).

          Although I wouldn’t necessarily put the UK out there as the bastion of perfect free speech law anyway, even now; there are probably better European countries to single out for that – I’ve just never seen the blanket law of the US to be superior, or even more ‘free’; it’s flawed, but like the gun laws it’s enshrined in the constitution and so treated like gospel.

  10. WBC is in the wrong. Anonymous is in the wrong. Doesn’t mean I can’t feel happy that they’re attacking them though. Kind of like seeing gangsters taken out by other gangsters. :)  

  11. If the TSA can ‘accidentally’ put senators and practically everyone who has ever looked at a Koran on the terror no-fly list, why can’t some 10.00/hr. flunky ‘accidentally’ list the entire clan? I mean, use the crappy system for something good, right? 

    1. Because this clan is filled with civil rights lawyers. Actually also makes it a longshot that they’ll ever be officially declared a hate group no matter how much they deserve it.

      1. I doubt that being declared a “hate group” is some sort of legal status, so this is all masturbation, or at least as much as the rest of

    2. “why can’t some 10.00/hr. flunky ‘accidentally’ list the entire clan”

      Because it doesn’t fucking matter? They’re proud of who they are. They deserve their privacy, and “exposing” them would do nothing.

  12. I hate how occupy people get arrested, but westboro baptist get to use freedom of speech? I wish it would at least be equal across the board.

    1. Occupy challenges authority in a different way. WBC doesn’t change any systems, doesn’t affect business, doesn’t attack politicians, mostly hurts fee-fees.

      Plus, very few Occupy members are lawyers with the background and finances to sue the city for unconstitutional behavior. That, and religious beliefs are more protected than protest activity.

  13. As horrible as Westboro is, let’s not ask for something that might be worse. I’d rather have a law that deals with this kind of extreme religious hate that WBC spews than potential Orwellian religious vigilantes running amuck (assuming that this isn’t all bluster) because they’ve been offended. Picketing funerals of dead children or soldiers is akin to crying fire in a theatre, so the law should address it. Be careful what you wish for, you just may get it/regret it. (apologies to Metallica)

  14. We have hate speech laws in Canada that I’m pretty sure would cover these folks’ arses (they were already denied entry before). While it sometimes lead to a few controversies (what doesn’t?), we’re not, you know, Eritrea.

  15. So I realize we all entiled to our opinion but I am rather sure if I made a public threat like this, the cyber police,homeland security and several other law enforcement agencies when be dogging my movements. I understand they are just seeking attention from another action but I am willing to bet there is at least 1 zealot among there ranks. Give it a rest dudes! There is no glory in death, your just worm food. And if you truly believe your soul will transcend to make you closer to God – hah! Playing God does not make one a God.  

Comments are closed.