A church in northeastern Pennsylvania was teeming with AR-15 rifles on Wednesday as it held a commitment ceremony that had crown-wearing members exchange or renew their wedding vows.
The World Peace and Unification Sanctuary, also known as the Sanctuary Church, prompted police and protesters to watch outside its premises as the religious event went on. All guns were reportedly unloaded.
The church, which enjoys a worldwide following, was founded by the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon, a self-proclaimed messiah from Korea.
His son, Rev. Sean Moon, led the ceremony on Feb. 28 and prayed for “a kingdom of peace police and peace militia where the citizens, through the right given to them by almighty God to keep and bear arms, will be able to protect one another and protect human flourishing,” according to the Associated Press.
The younger Moon’s congregation is reportedly an offshoot of his father’s church.
The event, which also functioned in support of the Second Amendment, required couples to bring the AR-15 as it symbolizes the “rod of iron” written in the Book of Revelation, the church believes.
It was formally called the “Cosmic True Parents of Heaven, Earth and Humanity Cheon Il Guk Book of Life Registration Blessing.” “True Parents” referred to Moon and his wife, the Chicago Tribune noted.
Protesters called out the event as it took place just two weeks after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Florida, where an AR-15 was used to kill 17 people. Some even worshippers wore “bullet crowns.”
One told a church member, “It’s scaring people in the community. Are you aware of that?”
“This is the continuation of the Moonies as far as I’m concerned, now they’re armed. This guy’s the messiah, it’s a cult, period,” Lisa Desiena, another protester, was quoted by FOX43 as saying.
Meanwhile, students at the nearby Wallenpaupack South Elementary School were transferred to another campus in the Wallenpaupack Area School District for safety precautions.
The service was supposedly broadcast on YouTube, but the platform shut down their original channel.