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AR15_A3_Tactical_Carbine_pic1Two weeks after a deadly school shooting at a Florida high school took the lives of 17 people, the World Peace and Unification Sanctuary in Pennsylvania is holding a ceremony blessing couples that own an AR-15 assault rifle. This already controversial event is made even more divisive by the fact that the shooter in Florida used an AR-15 rifle. The ceremony is also being held a mere half a mile away from Wallenpaupack South Elementary School. Local parents, already on high alert after the Florida school shooting, have said that they do not feel it is safe to have an event with so many powerful weapons so close to an elementary school. “I would consider keeping my child home,” said local parent, Liz Zoccola. “It’s scary.”

Kendra Hanor, another parent, agreed. “I wish they wouldn’t have it at all. I don’t think there’s a good time to have it, especially this close.”

Church leaders, however, intend to go forward with the ceremony. The blessing ceremony was planned before the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, and church leaders say they are taking precautions.  “All of the weapons in the ceremony will be checked to make sure they are unloaded, with a zip tie so that no bullets can be inserted,” said Richard Panzer, the president of the World Peace and Unification Sanctuary.  “We are inviting local and state police to be on the premises, so that everything goes safely.”

The Pennsylvania ceremony is meant to focus on each couple’s commitment to defend their home and the coming kingdom of Cheon Il Guk, the kingdom of God referenced in Revelation. Hyung Jin Moon, one of the church leaders, believes that guns are the “rod of iron” described in the book of Revelation. Those coming to the ceremony will take a pledge of defense and have been told to bring an AR-15 or “equivalents such as an AK semiautomatic rifle, representing both the intent and the ability to defend one’s family, community…” Couples who wish to participate but do not own a gun were told to bring a $700 gift certificate to show that they plan to buy one.

“These actions to participate with crowns and a rod of iron/gift certificate are signs of attendance, sovereignty and vigilance to protect God’s coming nation of Cheon Il Guk,” the church said. “They are also a foundation of faith and substance to unite with the Second King [Hyung Jin Moon] who is advancing God’s providence at this time.”

The ceremony has made headlines across the country in the wake of the Florida school shooting. As the debate over gun control heats up, the blessing ceremony has the potential to become a lightning rod. Either way, it is unlikely to simply fade into the background given the current climate.

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