The Westboro Baptist Church group left 2 hours before Marine Sgt. Kevin Balduf's service started Monday, The (Nashville) Tennessean reported. The Topeka, Kan., church, which consists mostly of one extended family and is best-known for its opposition to homosexuality, pickets military funerals with signs bearing messages like "Thank God for dead soldiers."
Balduf, 27, was killed in Afghanistan May 12.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in March that Westboro has a constitutional right to picket funerals. Since then, counter-protests have grown.
"It's just the right thing to do," said Adam Gordon, 27, who was injured while serving in the Army in Iraq. "It's a military funeral, so we should all be here showing our thanks, anyway."
Before they arrived at the Woodmont Hills Family of God Church, the Westboro group picketed the Gordon Jewish Community Center in Bellevue and the Islamic Center of Nashville. At the Islamic Center, worshipers greeted them with silence.
"We prayed for them," Imam Mohammed Ahmed said. "We decided to ignore them."