Churches in fight over trademarked symbol

The Times Tribune, Pennsylvania/August 1, 2018

By Terrie Morgan Besecker

A controversial Wayne County church that advocates gun ownership is illegally using the trademarked symbol of the Unification Church to promote its religious and political agenda, according to a federal lawsuit.

Attorneys for Unification Church say the Newfoundland-based Sanctuary Church promotes a gun-centered theology that is “repugnant” and a “perversion” of the Unification Church’s beliefs. Its continued use of a symbol similar to the church’s “twelve gates mark” has caused the public to confuse the two religious organizations, causing extreme harm to Unification Church.

Sanctuary Church is led by the Rev. Hyung Jin “Sean” Moon, whose late father, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, and his wife founded the Unification Church in the 1950s.

“Sanctuary Church’s conduct is willful, deliberate (and) in bad faith,” the church’s attorney, Adam Shienvold, says in the suit. “Unless restrained by the court . . . (it) will continue to cause serious irreparable injury” to the church.

The suit, filed Monday, comes five months after Sanctuary Church, also known as World Peace and Unification Sanctuary, held a highly publicized “marriage commitment” ceremony in Newfoundland, Dreher Twp., that encouraged couples to bring an AR-15 or other similar semi-automatic rifle to the event to be blessed.

That ceremony was preceded by a pro-gun “thank you” dinner for President Donald Trump in Matamoras arranged by Rod of Iron Ministries, an affiliate of the church. Both events took place shortly after the mass shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and were denounced by gun control advocates.

Also known as Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, the Unification Church does not lobby for gun rights or incorporate guns into its religious ceremonies, the suit says.

That’s in stark contrast to Sanctuary Church, which Moon’s son founded in 2015, after he was suspended from the Unification Church for violating its tenets. Sean Moon and other church members sometimes attend church events armed with semi-automatic rifles and wearing crowns made of bullets, the suit says.

The Unification Church has used the twelve gates mark to symbolize its teachings since 1965, and trademarked the image in 2009. The Sanctuary Church’s symbol, which it displays at religious services, political demonstrations, newsletters and videos, is virtually identical, the suit says. The only difference is Sanctuary Church changed the color from red to gold and sometimes sets the mark against a background of guns and other weapons, the suit says.

The Unification Church tried to resolve the dispute without filing a lawsuit. Sean Moon refused its demands to stop utilizing the image, arguing he is the “true heir” to his father’s ministry, therefore he owns the symbol, the suit says. His father died in 2012.

The issue came to a head after the marriage commitment ceremony and Trump thank-you dinner drew extensive media coverage. News organizations “did little to nothing” to differentiate between the churches, which led some members of the public to believe the Unification Church was tied to the events, the suit says.

“Defendants expressly… political exploitation of its marks at gun rights events have, cumulatively, brought this matter... to a level that it is causing irreparable injury,” to the Unification Church, the suit says.

Tim Elder, Sanctuary Church’s director of world missions, said the church follows the teachings of Sun Myung Moon, therefore “it would be natural we also want to use that symbol.” He declined to comment further.

The lawsuit seeks an order forbidding Sanctuary Church from continuing to display the image. It also seeks monetary damages on several counts, including trademark infringement and unfair competition and punitive damages.

"To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.

Educational DVDs and Videos