After the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., one Pennsylvania church is encouraging its members to ask for blessings — not for the victims and survivors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but for members’ assault rifles.
On Wednesday, Feb. 28, members of the World Peace and Unification Sanctuary of Newfoundland — a town located approximately 25 miles southeast of Scranton — church members who own an AR-15 assault rifle are being asked to attend church for a “blessing ceremony” for their weapons, and to pledge to defend their home and prepare for the coming biblical Kingdom of God.
Timothy Elder, director of World Missions for the World Peace and Unification Sanctuary, tells Yahoo Lifestyle that despite the attention that has been drawn to this event in light of the recent shooting, planning for the blessing ceremony has been underway since October 2017. The event is not only for local church members, but for Unification Church members worldwide.
Elder explains that since planning has begun, church members have been instructed to purchase AR-15s wherever it is legal to do so. Elder says church members who live in other countries where it is not possible to obtain American-made guns have been encouraged instead to buy AK-47s, which are more readily available.
This Saturday night, Feb. 24, the Newfoundland Sanctuary Church is co-sponsoring a pro-gun rights dinner billed as a “President Trump Thank You Dinner.” Kahr Arms, a gun manufacturer, is the event’s other sponsor — an AR-15 will be raffled off at the event. Proceeds from the dinner will benefit the Gun Owners Foundation and its work lobbying for states to honor each other’s concealed carry permits. Kahr Arms is owned by Moon Kook-jin, the son of the Unification Church’s leader, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Elder says planning for this event began in January of this year.
According to Elder, the church has reached out to people in their community who have concerns about the upcoming events, namely state police. “We haven’t really changed our plans,” Elder says with respect to recent events. “The people who were intending to come have already signed up. People are coming in from all around the world. A contingent from Korea has already arrived. A contingent from Spain has already arrived. Another group from Korea arrived today, as well as another group from Europe. People already have their tickets and have bought their rifles. People are driving in from around the United States and flying in by plane, so we are going ahead as planned.”
Elder explains that church members believe that “we are living in end times” — and that rods of iron, or AR-15s, are necessary to bring about the “solvency of goodness” that will be expanded following the Second Coming of God.
He adds that all weapons at the ceremony must be unloaded and that the ammunition chambers will be locked with zip ties, so they cannot be loaded at any point during the ceremony. He also said that security will be present the whole time.
“We believe that the right to self-defense is a natural right that comes from God, and that everyone should have that right to defend themselves,” Elder says.
Elder adds that the church is “very grateful” for President Trump’s first year in office and Trump’s “work to defend our right to self-defense.”
In regards to the relevance of the week’s events following the Parkland shooting, Elder emphasizes, “The president has called for trained and screened teachers to be armed, or to allow so that people who have training and have been through screening can protect students, and we think that is a good thing. We think that is what is needed.”
Sanctuary Church is affiliated with the Unification Church, led by by Rev. Hyung Jin Moon, another son of the church’s founder. The church has been identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
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