Protesters face off at Reno funeral

RENO — A small group from a Kansas-based church that protests at the funerals of U.S. soldiers faced off Saturday night against more than 150 counterdemonstrators outside a memorial service for a Reno woman killed by a serial rapist.

The tense standoff ended peacefully when three female anti-gay protesters associated with the Wesboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., were escorted away from the Reno-Sparks Convention Center in a police van, Reno police Sgt. Chris Lange said.

“There were a couple of eggs thrown at them and that’s about it,” Lange said.

The three church members were surrounded by counterdemonstrators after they waved placards reading, “Pray for More Dead Kids,” “Don’t Worship the Dead” and “God Sent the Killer.”

Scores of counterdemonstrators responded by chanting, “Go Back to Kansas” and “Go Home.”

Inside, about 2,200 people attended the service for Brianna Denison, who police said was abducted Jan. 20 and killed by a serial rapist linked to two earlier attacks on the edge of the University of Nevada, Reno.

Her body was found in a field in Reno on Feb. 15.

Members of the church picket military funerals out of a belief that the war in Iraq is a punishment for the nation’s tolerance of homosexuality.

The church had announced that it would protest the service for Denison because members think God hates Reno, as well as gay people and America’s tolerance of them.

Church officials said they targeted Reno because local law enforcement officers failed to protect three church members who picketed a Jan. 26 memorial service in Reno for Staff Sgt. Sean Gaul, who was killed in Iraq on Jan. 9.

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