Petitions: Serious and not

The Obama administration created a place where people can petition for actions they want the government to take.  This is in a great American tradition as the Declaration of Independence was in a very real sense a petition to the British monarchy listing all the issues the founding fathers had with the King.  There are petitions for secession, for and against gun control (there has been a response to those), building a Death Star – you name it there is probably a petition.  When the process was started, I doubt that anyone expected so many and varied petitions.  So what happens to them?

Donovan Slack explains on Politico

So what happens to such petitions and will they actually get a response from the White House?

A quick look at program statistics on the White House web site shows that there are 159 open petitions, 45 of which that have reached the 25,000-signature threshold required for response.

Some of those have been waiting several months since reaching the threshold, including two asking about required labeling on genetically modified foods (created in September 2011 and April 2012), two asking the administration to denounce support of former Japanese “comfort women” (created in May and June), one asking that access to journal articles based on taxpayer-funded research be free (created in May) and another asking that foreign aid be pulled from Vietnam unless it returns land to former owners (created in August).

Some petitions don’t receive a response at all. The White House reserves the right to remove petitions that do not fall within its guidelines, for example those that ask for actions outside the power of the federal government. (A petition asking for the removal of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was removed in December.)

The White House has responded to 87 petitions since the program’s inception in September 2011, according to the site. Many of the responses read like dry talking points, others are basically a “no comment.” But a few appear to have had some impact. For example, the White House issued its response to petitions on Internet privacy (SOPA and PIPA) at the same time the House was considering legislation on the issue. The White House came out against legislation, helping lead to its demise. And there was of course the one that prompted the release of the White House beer recipe.

While the White House has yet to comment on the various petitions for secession, Calvin Trillin has made his comment.

A Short Message to Those Who Have Signed Petitions Asking to Secede From the Union

We do respect your point of view.
We’re glad to see the back of you.

Two recent petitions have caught my attention.  The first is a serious one about Westboro Church; the second, is the matching set of petitions to deport or not CNN’s Piers Morgan.  Lets look at Morgan first.

British Citizen and CNN television host Piers Morgan is engaged in a hostile attack against the U.S. Constitution by targeting the Second Amendment,” the authors write. “We demand that Mr. Morgan be deported immediately for his effort to undermine the Bill of Rights and for exploiting his position as a national network television host to stage attacks against the rights of American citizens.”

Last Tuesday, Morgan interviewed Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners for America, and called him “dangerous,” “stupid,” and “an idiot.” The next night he told John Lott, the author of More Guns, Less Crime that he needed “to stop repeating a blatant lie about what happens in other countries.”

This prompted a petition to deport Morgan and a counter petition by some British Citizens requesting that we keep him because they don’t want him.  I’m sure the White House response will involve a discussion of the First Amendment.  The counter petition doesn’t have many signatures so maybe when I finish writing this, I’ll log in and sign it.

The Westboro Chuch petition, however, is a serious matter.

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church chant anti-Marine Corps slogans and stand on American flags during their protest. | AP Photo

The church is composed mostly of members of one extended family who believe that every event is caused by tolerance for homosexuality.  Politico reports

More than 260,000 people have signed a petition to the White House asking for  it to label the notorious Westboro Baptist Church a hate group.

The petition aimed at the church best known for picketing military funerals  and other events with signs declaring “GOD HATES FAGS,” is believed to be the  most popular cause ever on the White House’s “We the People” petition site. Four  other petitions targeting the church’s tax-exempt status have attracted nearly  200,000 additional signatures. All five petitions have passed the number  required for a response from President Barack Obama’s administration.

“This group has been recognized as a hate group by organizations, such as The  Southern Poverty Law  Center, and has repeatedly displayed the actions typical of hate  groups,” the petition reads. “Their actions have been directed at many groups,  including homosexuals, military, Jewish people and even other Christians. They  pose a threat to the welfare and treatment of others and will not improve  without some form of imposed regulation.”

Westboro Church picketed funerals in Sandy Hook probably for no reason other than wanting publicity.  I thing that getting the IRS to look at tax exemption is a good way to go.  They, like Piers Morgan, have the right to free speech but they don’t have to be tax exempt.  I wonder if they claim travel expenses as a business deduction.

English: We the People, White House petition p...

English: We the People, White House petition platform logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Photograph of Westboro Church member:  AP

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