One of Marilyn Manson's many accusers says she's "re-traumatized" by Kanye's inclusion of Manson at his Sunday Service.
Kanye West’s Sunday Services are known for ruffling the feathers of devout churchgoers, but now he is upsetting sexual assault survivors with his infamous repeat PR stunt. The superstar artist, who recently legally changed his name to Ye, has conflated himself with God on many occasions, complicating his own aesthetic with religious iconography. It’s a line of questioning he provokes that goes back to 2004 when “Jesus Walks” put Kanye on the map to begin with. But whether Kanye is mainlining God, or thinks he is the main line to God, is more confusing these days when his megalomania gets in the way of his message. A lot of ink has been spilled on the topic, and perhaps that’s the point: to keep people discussing God and Ye in the same breath. As that conversation persists, Kanye continues to use his faux church service as a promotional tool. The most recent iteration, held on Halloween, pushed limits that were shocking even for Kanye though — in which he allowed accused sexual abuser, Marilyn Manson, to help lead.
In case you missed it, Marilyn Manson (born Brian Warner) is in the midst of multiple court cases in which he is accused of a litany of horrific abuses including rape, intentional infliction of emotional distress, human trafficking, and unlawful imprisonment. Manson is working very hard with his legal team to have these lawsuits thrown out, but his accusers are not backing down to intimidation and gaslighting — and they’re not quivering in the face of Manson’s public appearances either. Instead they’re calling out how gross and irresponsible it was to include Manson in such a prominent way at such a high profile event.
One accuser, model Ashley Morgan Smithline — who is suing Manson for physical, sexual and psychological abuse — told PEOPLE, “It's heartbreaking. It makes me sick. How is this the world we live in?” She continued, “It makes everyone really fucking sick. This is just like being re-traumatized...And it's just showing the point that the world doesn't really care if you rape and if you beat and hurt all these [women], you can do whatever you want, basically, if you have money and you're a guy and you're famous.” Of Kanye she added, “This man has to know that he is enabling a rapist. He's enabling an abuser and not just [of] one girl.” As of this writing, Kanye’s reps have not responded to comment, and Justin Bieber allegedly didn’t know Manson was going to be part of the event until he arrived.
The whole incident speaks to the gross injustices and hypocrisies of both the patriarchy and celebrity in general. While spreading love via sermon at a massively televised event is altruistic on the surface, ultimately Sunday Service is still a Kanye performance — it’s just more elaborate and God-themed. The obliviousness of Bieber is also hard to reckon with when he prayed, “Thank you for your forgiveness,” adding, “We cast out any demonic activity that would try to steal our peace today and our joy.” Having Justin Bieber cast out demons is hardly an exorcism, especially alongside a muzzled Manson. The irony of Manson of all people nodding along to Bieber’s naive sermon was not lost on the internet — but considering his current legal situation, there’s a more nefarious and nauseating undertone to the whole thing.
Manson currently has over 15 accusers, who were forced to come out in a coordinated legal effort and show of solidarity in order to be heard — not unlike how Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby’s accusers had to band together in order to be believed. That is the reality of the world we live in for sexual assault survivors, especially women. Strength in numbers is often the only way to drown out the strength of patriarchal double standards. The accusations against Manson are insidious as well, listing not just physical abuses, but perverse psychological and emotional torture and the grooming of young girls for subservience to him. Evan Rachel Wood’s impassioned statement detailed, “[Manson] started grooming me when I was a teenager and horrifically abused me for years. I was brainwashed and manipulated into submission. I am done living in fear of retaliation, slander, or blackmail.”
While Kanye is a known provocateur, it’s hard to believe that clowning around with Manson is the hill he wants to die on. The Sunday Service would prove otherwise though, considering this is the second time in less than three months that West has paraded Manson out in a highly performative and very public way. The last incident was at his Chicago listening event for Donda, where Manson appeared on the recreated steps of Kanye’s childhood home alongside DaBaby (just a month after his homophobic rant at Miami’s Rolling Loud). Many saw the controversial stunt as Ye’s rebuttal to “cancel culture,” but considering the severity of the accusations against Manson, it was widely panned as a tone deaf way to protest cancelation. This latest Kanye-sponsored mocking of Manson’s current status feels more sinister though. By incorporating Christianity into the spectacle, perhaps the two musicians are wagering that only God can judge them. But if that’s the bet, they most certainly lose — we’re all judging them for this. A lot. Unfortunately, they do not seem to care.