Worshippers armed with AR-15s celebrate their marriages and weapons at a church in Pennsylvania

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Around 250 couples armed with assault rifles have exchanged or renewed their wedding vows in a commitment ceremony at a US church – angering locals and forcing a school to close.

Scores of brides clad in white and grooms in dark suits, who had been asked to bring their AR-15 semi-automatic rifles, attended the World Peace and Unification Sanctuary in Newfoundland, Pennsylvania.

A church official throws holy water on an AR-15-style rifle Worshippers armed with AR-15s celebrate their marriages and weapons at a church in Pennsylvania Worshippers armed with AR-15s celebrate their marriages and weapons at a church in Pennsylvania guns church us sky news 4243562
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A church official throws holy water on a woman holding an AR-15-style rifle

Some worshippers wore crowns made out of bullets.

The congregation drank holy wine and lined up with their weapons to be splashed with holy water by church officials dressed in flowing bright pink and white garments.

The Unification Sanctuary’s leader, the Reverend Hyung Jin “Sean” Moon, is the son of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, a self-proclaimed messiah who founded the Unification Church, which has been accused of being a cult.

A man wearing a crown of rifle shells takes communion Worshippers armed with AR-15s celebrate their marriages and weapons at a church in Pennsylvania Worshippers armed with AR-15s celebrate their marriages and weapons at a church in Pennsylvania guns church sky news 4243545
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A man wearing a crown of rifle shells takes communion

Rev Sean Moon believes the AR-15 symbolises the “rod of iron” mentioned in the Bible’s apocalyptic Book of Revelation and that not only every American, but all mankind, has the right to self-defence and to use it to protect “God’s children” in the “satanic kingdoms of this world”.

The church leader insisted the ceremony was not for “blessing weapons”.

Worshippers at World Peace and Unification Sanctuary hold weapons during their service Worshippers armed with AR-15s celebrate their marriages and weapons at a church in Pennsylvania Worshippers armed with AR-15s celebrate their marriages and weapons at a church in Pennsylvania guns church us sky news 4243548
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Worshippers at the event hold their weapons during the service

However, it outraged some members of the local community who gathered to protest outside the event, holding up posters that read “Worship God, Not Guns” and “God Does Not Bless Guns”.

Lisa Desiena, from Scranton, said she owns a gun but added: “I don’t need a freaking assault weapon to defend myself.

“Only thing they’re good for is killing. Period. That’s all that weapon is good for: mass killing. And you want to bless it? Shame on you.”

Anti-gun protesters outside the church Worshippers armed with AR-15s celebrate their marriages and weapons at a church in Pennsylvania Worshippers armed with AR-15s celebrate their marriages and weapons at a church in Pennsylvania guns church us sky news 4243560
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Anti-gun protesters outside the church

“It’s scaring people in the community,” another demonstrator told a church member. “Are you aware of that?”

Students from a nearby school were relocated for the day to distance them from the gun-toting couples at the ceremony, according to the Wallenpaupack School District website.

All weapons were inspected before the service Worshippers armed with AR-15s celebrate their marriages and weapons at a church in Pennsylvania Worshippers armed with AR-15s celebrate their marriages and weapons at a church in Pennsylvania guns church us sky news 4243554
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All weapons were inspected before the service

The event also fell on the same day students returned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida, for the first time since a 19-year-old used an AR-15 to kill 17 students and staff on Valentine’s Day.

But those in the congregation believe US school shootings do not justify stricter gun laws.

A woman holds an AR-15 rifle during the blessing Worshippers armed with AR-15s celebrate their marriages and weapons at a church in Pennsylvania Worshippers armed with AR-15s celebrate their marriages and weapons at a church in Pennsylvania guns church us sky news 4243550
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A woman holds an AR-15 rifle during the blessing

“I don’t think restricting gun ownership has proven that where there are less guns, there will be less violence,” said, Andrew Kessler, a lawyer from the affluent suburb of Westchester, New York.

Sreymom Ouk, 41, who attended the ceremony with her husband, Sort Ouk, said they owned an AR-15 to defend the family against “sickos and evil psychopaths”.

Reverend Hyung Jin Moon, the church's pastor, leads the ceremony Worshippers armed with AR-15s celebrate their marriages and weapons at a church in Pennsylvania Worshippers armed with AR-15s celebrate their marriages and weapons at a church in Pennsylvania guns church us sky news 4243563
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Reverend Hyung Jin Moon, the church’s pastor, leads the ceremony

Rev Moon said in a statement on Facebook that the staff of the Florida school should have been armed.

“If the football coach who rushed into the building to defend students from the shooter with his own body had been allowed to carry a firearm, many lives, including his own, could have been saved,” he wrote.

The Pennsylvania church is a staunch supporter of the constitutional amendment that protects the right to bear arms.

A woman has her gun inspected before the ceremony Worshippers armed with AR-15s celebrate their marriages and weapons at a church in Pennsylvania Worshippers armed with AR-15s celebrate their marriages and weapons at a church in Pennsylvania guns church sky news 4243559
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A woman has her gun inspected before the ceremony

It runs a group called Rod of Iron Ministries, which hosted a “President Trump Thank You Dinner” at the weekend to raise money for Gun Owners of America, a grassroots gun rights lobby group.

Wednesday’s blessing was planned months before the mass school shooting in Florida.

All weapons brought along were unloaded, secured with zip ties and checked at the door.

A man holds aloft his gun during the ceremony Worshippers armed with AR-15s celebrate their marriages and weapons at a church in Pennsylvania Worshippers armed with AR-15s celebrate their marriages and weapons at a church in Pennsylvania guns church us sky news 4243558
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A man holds aloft his gun during the ceremony

Those who did not own an AR-15 were advised to “purchase a $700 gift certificate from a gun store”, as evidence of their intent to purchase one in the future.

To not take part in the ceremony “would be a sign of great disrespect”, the church’s website said.



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