Wallenpaupack School District responds to nearby church ceremony involving AR-15 rifles


Sanctuary Church, a pro-gun church in Newfoundland, is planning a special blessing ceremony next week that involves AR-15 rifles.

While the church claims the event will be safe and secured, the Wallenpaupack Area School District is making some adjustments to keep students and staff far away from the ceremony.

The District sent a letter to parents of kids at the Wallenpaupack South Elementary School, which sits just half of a mile away from the Sanctuary Church, explaining students will spend the day Wednesday on the North Campus, a safety precaution prompted by the planned marriage blessing ceremony where participants are expected to bring AR-15 rifles.

"Everything's going to be safe and secure," said Gregg Noll, Sanctuary Church Administrator.

Noll said he met with the principal of South Elementary, Mark Kirsten, to relieve any fears but understands the decision to transport students.

"He of course has to deal with parents that are raising issues and concerns," Noll said.

Noll said on Wednesday, hundreds of people from around the world will gather at Sanctuary Church, an offshoot of the Unification Church, for a sacred event where husbands and wives will recommit themselves with symbolic items like a crown and an AR-15 rifle, symbolizing the "rod of iron" mentioned in the Bible's Book of Revelation.

"The modern day 'rod if iron' is the AR-15, that is the most effective way to battle predators," Noll said.

Noll said the ceremony has 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.

He said people are coming from countries like Japan and Korea and the event couldn't be canceled.

"Every single congregant here is very responsible when it comes to firearms," Noll said.

Despite promises that all guns will be unloaded and that security is a top priority, some parents said they are still very uncomfortable with the event being held just down the road from a school.

"You don't know who's going to be there, you don't know who has problems or what anybody's intentions are," said Cassandra Marro, a parent with a student at the school.

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.

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