Church Still Plans Ceremony with Weapons

02.22.18 | Bob Price

A church leader tells Newswatch 16 a ceremony next week that features assault rifles will go on.

The Sanctuary Church is expecting hundreds of people next Wednesday morning, many of them with assault rifles. Church leaders had this ceremony planned before the massacre at a high school in Florida last week.

Now, while school officials down the road figure out how they'll handle safety, Sanctuary Church's founder explains why they are incorporating AR-15s into their beliefs.

A view from Skycam 16 shows just how close Sanctuary Church in Newfoundland is to Wallenpaupack South Elementary School.

The church is planning a ceremony next Wednesday at 10 a.m. with worshippers asked to bring AR-15s -- the same type of gun used in numerous mass shootings around the country.

"All the weapons will be disarmed, innocuous, zip ties in them," said Rev. Sean Moon.

Rev. Moon started Sanctuary Church a few years ago after having a ministry in his living room, then buying this church in the Newfoundland area.

His father was Sun Myung Moon, leader of the controversial Unification Church that held a mass wedding ceremony at Madison Square Garden in New York City in 1982.

"He crowned me his heir and successor in three big ceremonies," Rev. Moon said.

There is a billboard near Newfoundland with the late church leader and now the ceremony next week is starting to draw national attention.

Rev. Moon spoke to Newswatch 16 about the church's beliefs that interpret assault rifles to be the so-called "rod of iron" mentioned in the Bible.

"Jesus defines his own kingdom to be ruled with a rod of iron," Rev. Moon explained. "We believe it's a human right that people are able to defend themselves."

Neighbors are a little uneasy about the church combining high-powered firearms and religion.

"Assault weapons, they specifically said they want people showing up with assault weapons. It's scary. It only takes one crazy person," said neighbor Loren Levenstein.

As for the elementary school, administrators are still figuring out how to handle any safety concerns in response to the blessing ceremony at Sanctuary Church.

"If that means we have that here with extra security and police force presence then we have it here. If it means we locate to another campus, then we locate to our other campus," said Wallenpaupack South Principal Mark Kirsten.

School officials say they wish the church would move the ceremony to the weekend, but Rev. Moon says the ceremony was predetermined by his late father.