Kansas Church Invites Marilyn Manson To Address Youth

Shock rocker, in Lawrence for a 'surprise' club gig, is drawing supporters and critics in small Midwestern city.

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Shock-rocker Marilyn Manson, the artist formerly

known as the Antichrist Superstar, was invited Sunday (Oct. 25) by a

local church to speak to youth prior to his controversial kickoff show in

town.

Church youth-group director Chuck Henry said he is always open to having

guests

stop by to address the youth of Heartland Community Church. So, he added,

why not Manson.

"They're interested in what would lead a person to have such a hatred in their

voice," said Henry, standing in the sunshine outside the back entrance of the

church. That entrance butts up against the back parking lot of the local

Granada club, where Manson will hold a "surprise" concert Sunday to kick

off his Mechanical Animals tour. The outing launches officially

Monday in Kansas City, Kan.

The rocker was asked to address local youth this Sunday evening. As

youth-group

director for the non-denominational Christian parish, Henry said the

church's junior-high and high schoolers have some questions they'd like to

ask the controversial rocker, born Brian Warner.

On Sunday morning, Henry approached two of Manson's tour buses and passed his

invitation to the singer to the attendant roadies. As of Sunday afternoon,

Manson himself had not yet arrived at the scene, so there was no word on

whether the creator of 1996's Antichrist Superstar album planned to

visit the church youth group.

In addition to extending the invitation to Manson, members of the church's

youth group

plan to be on hand for the show, just to let his fans know that they are

concerned and that they oppose the event taking place in their rural

college town, he

said.

While the 650 people lucky enough to get tickets for the show -- which sold

out

in 12 minutes after being announced last Wednesday -- wait in line to enter

the Granada, Henry's group plans to pass out drinks to the Manson fans. Henry

said the gesture is intended to stand as a "quiet rebuttal" to the concert and

to show that even though the church opposes the messages in songs from

Manson's latest effort, Mechanical Animals, such as

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"Irresponsible Hate Anthem" (RealAudio excerpt) and

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"I Don't Like The Drugs (But The Drugs Like Me)" (RealAudio excerpt),

its members "are not bitter, not hatred-filled people."

Not everyone in Lawrence has been so friendly in their opposition to Manson,

however.

Ryan Orr, a 19-year-old Granada employee, said he was stationed outside the

venue to watch the rocker's two tour buses, in case someone tried to

vandalize them.

A week ago, an unknown Manson opponent scrawled graffiti with an ink marker

across the door of the nearby Vibes record shop, which had a poster for

Mechanical

Animals displayed in the glass door. Although she couldn't remember

precisely what the graffiti said, store manager Tanya Walsh recalled that it

read "Marilyn Manson has no love in his heart" and featured devil horns

drawn over Manson's head.

She also said police had been called to Vibes, located just a block from the

Granada on Massachusetts Street, on word that the store had "pornography" in

the window. The caller was referring to the cover for Mechanical

Animals,

which features a nude, androgynous and alien-looking Manson.

Walsh said she was a bit surprised that such protests would take place in this

academic community centered around the University of Kansas. In response to

the graffiti, she posted a sign in the window that reads: "It's unfortunate

that in the midst of a university setting, certain individuals lack the

critical skills to comprehend not only the First Amendment, but that whether

or not it appeals to your personal sense of aesthetic bliss, ART CAN'T HURT

YOU."

Lawrence is far from the first town to experience a bout of anti-Manson

activity in the days leading up to the 20-date North American tour. Earlier

this month, officials in Syracuse, N.Y., began examining ways to block the

shock rocker's show at the city-owned Landmark Theater. In Charlotte, N.C.,

last week, a coliseum authority held a public hearing on the upcoming Manson

show in that town's Ovens Auditorium. The authority decided against any

attempts to prevent the concert.

During Manson's 1997 tour in support of Antichrist Superstar, he met

with some kind of opposition at nearly every stop on his itinerary. He

fought many civic opponents on free-speech grounds and often won, including

much-

publicized cases in New Jersey and Virginia.

Some people find any opposition in Lawrence hard to believe. "This is a very

liberal town," said 35-year-old Lori Gordon, now a Dallas resident visiting

Lawrence for University of Kansas' homecoming. "If any town wouldn't care

about him, Lawrence wouldn't."

In Walsh's eyes, Manson's protesters and supporters are clear proof of the

city's split personality as a cultured college town in a rural setting.

"Lawrence has polarized conservative and liberal camps," she said.

And they were both expected to be outside the Granada on Sunday night.