Poconos Coal

Poconos church hosts ceremony featuring AR-15s

Nearby elementary students at different campus

NEWFOUNDLAND, Pa. - A religious group in the Poconos is hosting a blessing ceremony for couples that will feature their AR-15 rifles.

Hundreds of worshippers gathered inside the World Peace and Unification Sanctuary in Newfoundland Wednesday morning.

About 50 weapons, secured by orange zip-ties, were checked in so far by the crown-wearing worshippers.

The church believes the AR-15 symbolizes the "rod of iron" in the biblical book of Revelation, and encouraged couples to bring the weapons to the commitment ceremony.

Despite promises that all guns will be unloaded and that security is a top priority, kids at Wallenpaupack South Elementary School, which sits half of a mile away from the church, were bused to the North Campus for the day.

Wallenpaupack School District officials said students who are absent on Wednesday will be marked 'excused' and there will also be an increased security presence at the South Elementary School all week.

Gregg Noll, Sanctuary Church administrator, said the ceremony had been planned for months, long before the recent massacre at a Florida High School where the alleged gunman used an AR-15 rifle to kill 17 people.

The church is a breakaway faction of the Unification Church, which often is described as a cult. The Unification Church says it doesn't condone the Pennsylvania event.

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