Two religious organizations claiming to be the rightful heir to the Unification Church founded by the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon, one led by his widow and the other by one of their sons, have found themselves at odds.

NEWFOUNDLAND - Two religious organizations claiming to be the rightful heir to the Unification Church founded by the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon, one led by his widow and the other by one of their sons, have found themselves at odds.

The church, Family Federation for World Peace and Unification USA (a.k.a. “Unification Church”), led by Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, the widow and headquartered in New York City, has filed suit against the church led by her son, Rev. Hyung Jin Sean Moon, the World Peace and Unification Sanctuary  (a.k.a. “Sanctuary Church”) located in Newfoundland, Pa.

The suit alleges unauthorized use of the registered trademark used by the Unification Church.

It was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

According to the Unification Church statement, Family Federation’s proprietary logo is being used unlawfully to identify and brand Sanctuary Church, causing confusion among the public. Sanctuary Church has continued to disregard numerous cease-and-desist requests sent from Family Federation.

In light of the recent media attention surrounding Sanctuary Church, public concern regarding the political views of this organization, and public brand confusion, Family Federation has made the “difficult decision” to pursue litigation to protect the legacy of its founders, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon and Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon.

Firearm controversy

“Family Federation is in no way affiliated with Sanctuary Church,” said Rev. Richard Buessing, president of Family Federation USA. “While we respect every individual’s right to freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and other constitutional rights, we oppose violence and do not use weapons in any of our religious ceremonies. Sean Hyung Jin Moon has disregarded his father’s teachings regarding the importance of true love and reconciliation in addressing the problems of the world.”

In February 2018, Sanctuary Church received international media attention when the church hosted a Blessing Service for hundreds of married couples, who were urged to bring their semi-automatic weapons (unloaded). The AR-15s were displayed as a pledge to defend themselves, their families, nation and church in keeping with the Second Amendment Right to Bear Arms. Sanctuary Church leadership noted the weapons symbolized the “Rod of Iron” described in the Book of Revelation.

Controversy rose over the timing of the service, held only days after the mass shootings with an AR-15 at the middle school in Parkland, FL, although the service had been planned months before.

Not about a trademark

Sanctuary Church released a counter statement, which Timothy Elder, their Director of World Missions, stated was approved by Rev. Sean Moon.

“On its face, this dispute appears to be a trademark lawsuit,” the statement reads. “In reality, this is a dispute regarding church doctrine and rightful leadership after the ascension of Rev. Sun Myung Moon.”

Reverend Sun Myung Moon died in 2012.

Unification Church refers to the trademark logo as the “Twelve Gates Symbol.”

Sanctuary Church leaders state that this suit is an abuse of trademark law in an attempt to deny Sanctuary’s First Amendment rights by trying to deny them the right to freely exercise their religion.

According to the Sanctuary Church, the trademark- which they refer to as the “Unification Mark” - represents the central beliefs of all followers of Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Among these is that Jesus returned to the earth in the person of Rev. Sun Myung Moon, who is revered as the Messiah. Rev. Moon’s mission was to “establish God’s eternal Kingdom on Earth” (referred to as “Cheon II Guk”). Sanctuary Church leaders state that before The founder’s “ascension,” he appointed his son, Hyung Jin Sean Moon, to be his representative body and heir on earth.

Furthermore, according to the Sanctuary Church, Rev. Sean Moon was “offered power and wealth on the condition that he would comply with heretical changes to the basic teachings and theology of the Church, which many believe to e a desecration of his father’s legacy.”

Sanctuary Church is using the trademark as a physical representation of their central beliefs. “The Unification Mark is used in all aspects in all aspects of faith and worship, similar to how the Cross is used by Catholic and Protestant churches, and how the Star of David is used by Jewish temples,” Sanctuary Church states. They use the Unification Mark on wedding rings and gravestones of supporters, and on the cover of their religious texts and worship programs.

“The Unification Mark is not a trademark to be owned and exclusively used by one particular group, but rather a symbol that all followers of Rev. Sun Myung Moon should be free to use,” according to the Sanctuary Church statement. Sanctuary Church pledged to “vigorously defend” there First Amendment rights to the free exercise of religion in the court system.

The statement from Sanctuary Church did not reply to the Unification Church’s reference to the presence of firearms at the Sanctuary Church service in Newfoundland last winter.