SHARECOMMENTMORE

David Jackson, USA TODAY

The White House says it can't list anti-gay protesters at the Westboro Baptist Church as a "hate group," but it can -- and does -- condemn its practices.

Responding to a petition on itsWe The People website, the White House criticized the church's tactics of protesting gay rights at the funerals of military service members.

"We agree that practices such as protesting at the funerals of men and women who died in service to this country and preventing their families from mourning peacefully are reprehensible -- a point that President Obama has made for years," said the White House response.

The statement noted that Obama signed a law "to ensure that protesters keep an appropriate distance at military funerals."

Various petitions to the White House called on the government to declare the Westboro protesters a hate group.

Said the White House: "As a matter of practice, the federal government doesn't maintain a list of hate groups. That's the prerogative of private organizations like the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center."

The response also included an interesting statistical element: An analysis of where the signers of hundreds of thousands of anti-Westboro petitions signers live.

They came from all over the country, but many are clustered in two places: Kansas, where the Westboro Baptist Church is located, and Newtown, Conn., where Westboro members had threatened to picket the funerals of children and educators killed in the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

"One of the remarkable things about this set of petitions is that it shows just how strong the bonds that unite us can be," the White House said. "Together, we're more resilient than those who would try to drive us apart."

SHARECOMMENTMORE