Hyung Jin Moon, who leads the Sanctuary Church in Newfoundland, Pennsylvania, and is known as “True Father” and “Second King” to his followers, issued a literal call to arms to members of his anti-LGBT sect last month.
Sanctuary Church members “have been asked by the King to participate in the ceremony on 28th February with a crown and a ‘rod of iron’ (AR 15 or AK style weapon),” a press release on the cult’s website reads. “Attending the blessing, either with an AR15 or alike or without, is valid, but to attend with an AR15 would be a substantial ‘perfection stage’ blessing.”
The Sanctuary Church, which also calls itself Rod of Iron Ministries, is a splinter offshoot of the Unification Church, or “Moonies,” founded by the late Sun Myung Moon in the 1950s. According to cult expert Steve Hassan, himself a member of the Unification Church in the 1970s, the Unification Church’s ideology is racist, homophobic and antisemitic.
At a ceremony in 2008, Sun Myung Moon transferred leadership of the Unification Church to his youngest son, Hyung Jin Moon. After Sun Myung Moon died in 2012, a power struggle erupted between Hyung Jin Moon and his mother, Hak Ja Han, who ordered Hyung Jin to go to Korea.
Hyung Jin refused, and instead relocated to Newfoundland, Pennsylvania and founded the Sanctuary Church with the support of his older brother, Kook Jin Moon. Hyung Jin declared the Unification Church invalid since his father’s death, and continued to espouse his father’s teachings while declaring himself the “Second King,” after his father. Kook Jin also relocated his firearms manufacturing company, Kahr Arms, to a nearby county in Pennsylvania.
At the core of the Sanctuary Church’s beliefs is the establishment of “Cheon Il Guk,” a sovereign kingdom of heaven on earth, which is where the assault rifles come in. The missive calling followers to purchase the weapons explains, “To fulfill the ideal of kingship and the nation, we need people, land (property) and sovereignty. Sovereignty means that we are able to defend ourselves against an aggressive satanic world, when we are threatened. We should be able to defend ourselves, not only in an abstract but in a substantial way, as we would do in a sovereign nation. A minimum expression of such sovereignty is a crown and a real gun for defense (the biblical ‘rod of iron’) like a legal AR15.”
The Sanctuary Church has also created what it calls the “Peace Police Peace Militia,” wherein Hyung Jin trains his followers in martial arts, hand-to-hand knife combat and assault weapons. The Sanctuary Church says it attracts about 200 followers to its Sunday services.
Hyung Jin’s sect is explicitly political, like his father’s (Sun Myung Moon was once “crowned” in a U.S. Senate building while declaring himself “humanity’s Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent”) and aligned with the far-right. "If Trump needed some Brownshirts to kill the opposition, at the level I was indoctrinated to when I was with the Moonies, I would have done anything I was ordered to do, including dying or killing the opposition," says Hassan, the cult expert.
In fact, the Sanctuary Church is holding a “President Trump Thank You Dinner” on February 24, featuring Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America. A website for the event declares “President Trump has stepped into his calling as God’s representative.”
Hyung Jin has a regular YouTube program called “The King’s Report,” where he recently hosted Paul Mango, a GOP candidate for governor of Pennsylvania. The appearance made waves in Pennsylvania politics after Hyung Jin, wearing a golden crown and camouflage suit with an assault weapon mounted on his desk, told Mango, speaking of public schoolchildren, “They’re not only going to learn the actual required course load, they’re getting indoctrinated into the homosexual political agenda, they’re getting indoctrinated in the transgender agenda saying that their emotions, that they can choose how they feel based on how they feel their gender, which is totally against the bible.”
“Yeah and let me just mention two other things,” Mango responded. Mango’s spokesman later told a local newspaper the candidate “does not agree that schools are indoctrinating our kids.” Human Rights Campaign had previously criticized Mango’s candidacy because of his support for anti-transgender “bathroom laws.”
Cult expert Hassan believes Hyung Jin’s call for his followers to show up with assault rifles on February 28 is just another attempt by the Sanctuary Church to endear itself to the far right. “I don’t think there’s potential for violence at that event,” Hassan says, “but I think they’re trying to play up to Trump, play up to gun owners. They’re very right-wing extremists with a totalistic idea of how the world should be.”