An anti-gay church has married dozens of straight couples toting deadly assault rifles, in a protest over gun control.
The World Peace and Unification Sanctuary, from Newfoundland, Pennsylvania, held a mass ceremony to marry the couples and encouraged them to bring their weapons with them.
The Church – which has a homophobic, racist and anti-Semitic ideology according the Southern Poverty Law Centre, a hate monitoring body – believes that guns are the ‘rods of iron’ referred to in the Old Testament.
Attendees at the ceremony wore crowns made of bullets and venerated the AR-15s that they had bought with them for their wedding ceremony. An AR-15 was used in the Parkland school shooting in Florida on February 14 which left 17 dead.
A nearby school was forced to close over concerns for children’s safety as the religious group held their ceremony, while state police watched over the elaborate ritual to ease community tensions.
The group is an offshoot of the controversial Unification Church established by the late self-styled messiah, Rev Sun Myung Moon.
Followers of the Unification Church, known as ‘moonies’, often took part in mass weddings, with critics alleging that attendees were made to marry complete strangers.
Neither the World Peace and Unification Sanctuary nor its parent organisation believe in equal marriage.
The cult views guns as “religious accoutrements” and has become increasingly vocal following the growing clamour for greater gun control in the United States.
“Each of us is called to use the power of the ‘rod of iron’ not to arm or oppress as has been done in satanic kingdoms of this world, but to protect God’s children,” said the Sanctuary’s leader, Rev. Hyung Jin Moon in a statement.
Meanwhile one attendee, Sreymom Ouk, 41, told the Associated Press: “People have the right to bear arms, and in God’s kingdom, you have to protect that. You have to protect against evil.”
Around 250 people attended the event.