The websites of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church have been taken down by the Anonymous group.
The church in Topeka, Kansas, which is infamous for protesting at the funerals of soldiers in the US and achieved notoriety after featuring in a BBC documentary hosted by Louis Theroux, were contacted by Anonymous last week in an open letter accusing the church of "venomous statements of hatred".
The open letter from Anonymous, said: “As aggressive proponents for the freedom of speech and freedom of information as we are, we have hitherto allowed you to continue preaching your benighted gospel of hatred and your theatrical exhibitions of, not only your fascist views, but your utter lack of Christ-like attributes.”
It then went on to say that Anonymous could not abide this behaviour any longer "and the time for it to be idle spectators in its inhumane treatment of fellow man has reached its apex", and it was moved to action.
“Thus, we give you a warning: cease and desist your protest campaign in the year 2011, return to your homes in Kansas and close your public websites," the letter continued.
"Should you ignore this warning, you will meet with the vicious retaliatory arm of Anonymous. We will target your public websites and the propaganda and detestable doctrine that you promote will be eradicated, the damage incurred will be irreversible and neither your institution nor your congregation will ever be able to fully recover.
“It is in your best interest to comply now while the option to do so is still being offered, because we will not relent until you cease the conduction and promotion of all your bigoted operations and doctrines. The warning has been given. What happens from here shall be determined by you.”
In a public response on the weekend, Westboro Baptist Church issued a response of "bring it" to what it called "servants of God to Anonymous coward crybaby hackers".
It said: “A puddle of pimple-faced nerds organised under the cowardly banner of Anonymous claim they plan to hack Westboro's websites, because they hate Westboro's Bible preachments. They mistakenly suppose because pf pseudo-success with ruined-and-doomed-USA's government or financial websites that they can take on the servants of the living God. Bad miscalculation girls!
“Let us tell you how this will go: rebels will build a full head of steam based on false hope; the media will predictably do much breathless anticipating while giving another tsunami of coverage to Westboro's message; God will defeat your council; your efforts will fail.
“Anonymous is warring with God; very stupid for little boys claiming to be so smart. Foppish ‘hackers' like all humans must obey God. Obey or perish.”
At the time of writing the Westboro website www.godhatesfags.com was online but slow loading in a text-only format, while a performance report by Netcraft showed huge spikes in traffic over 12 hours from lunchtime on Sunday.