Anti-Gay Group Pickets Service of Reno Soldier killed in Iraq

A small group of anti-gay protesters gathered Saturday outside a funeral service for a Reno soldier killed in Iraq, but later became surrounded by more than 150 counter-demonstrators, authorities said.

Saturday's anti-gay protest was the latest sponsored by the Westboro Baptist Church based in Topeka, Kan., which claims God kills soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan to punish America for condoning homosexuality.

There were no problems after three anti-gay protesters became
surrounded by counter-demonstrators across the street from St. Rose
of Lima Catholic Church, where the service was held for Army Staff
Sgt. Sean Gaul, according to Washoe County sheriff's Lt. Dean Spurr.

"They had a little bit of talking back and forth, nothing loud," Spurr said. "I thought it was very peaceful."

The 29-year-old Gaul was among six soldiers who died Jan. 9 in Sinsil, Iraq, after an improvised explosive device, commonly known as IED, detonated during combat operations.

Counter-demonstrators showed up with American flags and made it difficult to see anti-gay protesters' signs that read "God Hates Fags" and "God Loves IEDs."

The counter-demonstration included many members of the Patriot Guard, a group of motorcycle enthusiasts who support fallen soldiers, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported on its Web site.

Danielle Fargo of Reno took part in the counter-demonstration along with her children.

"We came here to support our troops and to stand up against the hate," Fargo told the Gazette-Journal. "We want to show people that God is love, not hate."

The Westboro Baptist Church has sponsored similar protests across the country.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-01-26-08 1846EST