In Pennsylvania woods, church in 'spiritual battle' to re-elect Trump

Yasue Erikawa, 74, the head of a visiting Japanese delegation of the Sanctuary Unification Church, speaks during an interview in Newfoundland, Pennsylvania, U.S., October 28, 2020. REUTERS/Joseph Campbell

GREELEY, Pa. (Reuters) - Deep in the woods of northeast Pennsylvania, heavy rain pummeled down at dawn on Wednesday as a few dozen worshippers kowtowed onto rubber mats at an outdoor memorial, ending the ceremony by chanting "four more years."

And thus the World Peace and Unification Sanctuary Church, or just Sanctuary Church, founded by two men who broke away from their father Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, offers its contribution to U.S. President Donald Trump's re-election campaign.

In Greeley, Pennsylvania, some 100 miles (160 km) north of Philadelphia, parishioners - joined by hundreds of visitors from Japan and South Korea - are on a 21-day spiritual retreat to help re-elect Trump, whom co-founder Hyung Jin Moon said represents "the Biblical world view."

Trump, a Republican, draws strong support from white evangelical Christian voters, some 78% of whom back him, according to the Pew Research Center. That is largely linked to his recent vocal opposition to abortion and his support of social conservatives.

His support is less overwhelming among white non-evangelical Protestants and white Roman Catholics, and he trails by wide margins among Jewish, Hispanic Catholic and Black Protestant voters.

Biden often talks about his Catholic faith, while Trump has discussed religious liberty but rarely discusses religion in personal terms.

The Sanctuary Church has made headlines for its outspoken gun advocacy, and its encouragement of church members to bring firearms to services. Hyung Jin Moon now tells his followers that this year's election represents a choice between "good or evil."

"Whether it be going to a Trump rally, or whether it be just going to a certain, a holy place to pray, or whether it be going on the street and waving flags... what we are mostly focusing on is the spiritual nature of the battle and a fervent prayer," said Moon.

(Reporting by Joseph Campbell and Kevin Fogarty; Editing by Scott Malone and Rosalba O'Brien)

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