A Pennsylvania church inserted itself into the gun debate this week, and not on the side you would think.
In what has to rank among the most wickedly creative answers to the question “what would Jesus do,” the World Peace and Unification Sanctuary in Newfoundland, PA, known more colloquially as Sanctuary Church, has invited couples to bring their AR-15 style assault rifles in to be blessed by church leaders.
Sanctuary Church was founded by the controversial Sun Myung Moon, who established the ultra conservative sect decades ago. His son, Rev. Hyung Jin Moon, also known as the “Second King,” leads the church that promises its members that they are the inheritors of Cheon Il Guk, roughly the Kingdom of God on earth they believe to be prophesied in the Bible.
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The Scranton Times-Tribune reported the church’s announcement on their website earlier this week calling on couple to “bring the accouterments of the nation of Cheon Il Guk including crowns representing the sovereignty of kings and queens and a ‘rod of iron.’ The latter was identified ‘as an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle or equivalents such as an AK semiautomatic rifle.’ ”
If couples do not own an assault rifle, not to worry. They can still have it blessed in absentia if they purchase a gift certificate at a local gun store for $700, which is the amount the church has decided is sufficient to prove their intent to become proud owners of the military style weapon.
Spears into plowshares, indeed.
The blessing will take place during a special ceremony at next week’s “President Trump Thank You Dinner” in nearby Matamoras, PA, of which the church is a sponsor.
Sancutary Church President Richard Panzer responded to inquiries by the Times-Tribune with an e-mail, in which he makes clear who the Church blames for last week’s massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Hint: it’s not the lax gun laws that allowed the shooter to acquire an AR-15.
“Regarding the school shootings, if any of the teachers had been allowed to carry a firearm, many lives could have been saved,” Panzer wrote. “Several states have passed legislation to allow exactly that.”
When safety concerns about their upcoming event were raised, Panzer responded in the same email by writing, “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. We are inviting local and state police to be on the premises, so that everything goes safely.”
Before taking an outlandish stand on guns, Sanctuary Church was known primarily for it’s provocative attacks on the LGBTQ community. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled the group a “cult” with an aggressive anti-LGBTQ ideology and agenda.