Hacker group Anonymous has taken aim at the controversial Westboro Baptist Church, saying it will shut down its website unless it stops its controversial public protests.

Anonymous is not one to make idle threats – last year it launched cyber attacks on Paypal and Amazon for withdrawing support for Wikileaks. And this year it was responsible for crashing a number of Egyptian government websites in support of the pro-democracy protests.

The Church is infamous for its flock organising anti-gay protests close to military funerals with offensive signs including: ‘Thank God for 9/11’.

In an open online letter Westboro Church members, Anonymous wrote: ‘We have always regarded you and your ilk as an assembly of graceless sociopaths and maniacal chauvinists & religious zealots, however benign, who act out for the sake of attention and in the name of religion.’

It went on to say that it could no longer ‘abide’ their behaviour and that they would no longer sit back and watch the group’s ‘inhumane treatment of fellow man’.

They warned if the church did not stop its protest campaign this year and close its public website – godhatesfags.com – they would ‘meet with the vicious retaliatory arm of ANONYMOUS.’

‘The damage incurred will be irreversible,’ they said. ‘Neither your institution nor your congregation will ever be able to fully recover.’

Westboro responded by insulting Anonymous as a ‘puddle of pimple-faced nerds’ and challenged the hackers to ‘bring it’.

A number of US states have passed legislation, banning Westboro’s members from protesting close to military funerals.

The church’s leader, pastor Fred Phelps, was banned from entering the UK by the Home Office in 2009.