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On Wednesday—two weeks after a gunman killed 17 students and teachers at a school in Parkland, FL—a church in Newfoundland, PA, held a “commitment ceremony” where worshippers brought their guns to be blessed.

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Parishioners at the World Peace and Unification Sanctuary brought their (unloaded) handguns and semi-automatic weapons to the ceremony. A nearby elementary school canceled classes ahead of the event.

Photo: AP
Photo: AP

Some of the attendees wore crowns and tiaras “representing the sovereignty of Kings and Queens.” Some of those crowns were made of bullets.

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The Unification Sanctuary is an outgrowth of the Unification Church, which is often referred to as a cult. Rev. Sean Moon, the leader of Unification Sanctuary, is the son of Rev. Sun Myung Moon, who founded the Unification Church and claimed to be the Messiah.

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The church encouraged couples to bring AR-15 semi-automatic weapons to the ceremony to represent “both the intent and the ability to defend one’s family, community and ‘nation of Cheon Il Guk.’” The church’s leader believes AR-15s are the “rod of iron” mentioned in the Book of Revelations.

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The church instructed parishioners to purchase a $700 gift certificate from a gun store if they were unable to buy a weapon for the ceremony:

If unable to purchase and legally transport such a “rod of iron” because of laws barring the purchase of such weapons, or other reasons, couples are invited to purchase a $700 gift certificate from a gun store, as evidence of their intent to purchase a “rod of iron” in the future. Those attending the ceremony on Feb. 28 in Newfoundland with this gift certificate will be invited to participate in a color guard ceremony in the presence of the King.

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The event took place two weeks after gunman Nikolas Cruz, 19, killed three teachers and 14 students at Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland, FL. Cruz used a semiautomatic rifle he bought legally.

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Photo: AP
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Here is how Smith & Wesson describes its M&P 15—the type of rifle Cruz used—on its website:

M&P15 Rifles are the ideal modern sporting rifle. Built to perform multiple uses under various conditions, M&P15 Rifles are as versatile as they are reliable. Engineered for a wide variety of recreational, sport shooting and professional applications, M&P15 Rifles are easy to accessorize, but hard to put down. M&P15 Rifles are lightweight and rugged embodying the best combination of function and form.

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Normal description. Normal ceremony. Normal country.

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About the author

Emma Roller

Senior politics reporter at Splinter.