World Peace And Unification Sanctuary Religious Group Holds Blessing Ceremony For Couples And Their AR-15 Rifles

At the Church of the AR-15

Worshippers at a church in Pennsylvania brought their rifles to a blessing ceremony.

Hundreds of couples <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-guns-church/couples-lug-ar-15-assault-rifles-to-pennsylvania-church-blessing-idUSKCN1GC2V3/"target="_blank">gathered</a> at the World Peace and Unification Sanctuary in Pennsylvania on Wednesday to exchange and renew their vows with AR-15 rifles by their side. DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images Hundreds of couples gathered at the World Peace and Unification Sanctuary in Pennsylvania on Wednesday to exchange and renew their vows with AR-15 rifles by their side. The Unification Sanctuary, which has members around the world, encouraged its members to bring their weapons to the ceremony, describing them as “religious accouterments.” Spencer Platt/Getty Images The Unification Sanctuary, which has members around the world, encouraged its members to bring their weapons to the ceremony, describing them as “religious accouterments.” According to church officials, Wednesday&#39;s event was planned months ago, long before February&#39;s mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, where an AR-15 was used to kill 17 people. Spencer Platt/Getty Images According to church officials, Wednesday's event was planned months ago, long before February's mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, where an AR-15 was used to kill 17 people. Ahead of the ceremony, weapons were checked at the door, unloaded, and secured with zip ties. DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images Ahead of the ceremony, weapons were checked at the door, unloaded, and secured with zip ties. The services were attended by church leader Rev. Hyung Jin Moon, who is the son of Korean religious leader and self-proclaimed messiah Rev. Sun Myung Moon, who founded the Unification Church,<a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/hundreds-of-worshipers-gather-at-church-hosting-ceremony-featuring-ar-15s/"target="_blank"> which critics have accused of being a cult</a>, in the mid-1950s. DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images The services were attended by church leader Rev. Hyung Jin Moon, who is the son of Korean religious leader and self-proclaimed messiah Rev. Sun Myung Moon, who founded the Unification Church, which critics have accused of being a cult, in the mid-1950s. Moon and his followers believe that God gave people the right to bear arms and that the AR-15 symbolizes the “rod of iron” in the book of Revelation. DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images Moon and his followers believe that God gave people the right to bear arms and that the AR-15 symbolizes the “rod of iron” in the book of Revelation. Worshippers who were unable to bring a rifle &quot;because of laws barring the purchase of such weapons&quot; were reportedly asked to buy a <a href="http://www.newsweek.com/ar-15-church-ceremony-moonies-cult-school-shooting-parkland-florida-820465/"target="_blank">$700 gift certificate</a> from a gun store to demonstrate their dedication to purchasing a weapon in the future. Spencer Platt/Getty Images Worshippers who were unable to bring a rifle "because of laws barring the purchase of such weapons" were reportedly asked to buy a $700 gift certificate from a gun store to demonstrate their dedication to purchasing a weapon in the future. Outside of the church, a small group of protesters gathered to voice their disapproval, with one carrying a sign that asked, &quot;What would Jesus pack?&quot; Spencer Platt/Getty Images Outside of the church, a small group of protesters gathered to voice their disapproval, with one carrying a sign that asked, "What would Jesus pack?"