Face the Music

As Marilyn Manson's concert gets closer, the debate over free speech gets louder.

Sometimes, Jason Janz just cannot get Marilyn Manson out of his head.

"I decided a while ago that I couldn't listen to his songs anymore. It bothered me the way they lodged in my brain. I'd sing them to my wife, around the house: 'I don't like the drugs, but the drugs like me' -- that kind of thing. It was bad. Can you imagine a youth pastor walking around singing, you know, 'La, la, la, welcome to the dope show'?"

If Janz seems preocuppied with Marilyn Manson, it's because he has spent the better part of the past two months figuring out ways to prevent the "shock" rocker -- who is either a visionary, a has-been or the embodiment of pure evil, depending on whom you ask -- from coming to town as part of the Ozzfest tour, a bill that includes past and current limit-pushers like Black Sabbath and Slipknot and is slated to hit Mile High Stadium next week. Janz's role as the founder and spokesperson for the vehemently anti-Manson group Citizens for Peace and Respect -- a grassroots organization that has garnered the support of various church and business leaders since its formation in April -- has become a part-time job: In addition to his duties as a minister and teacher, husband and father, Janz estimates he spends approximately fifteen to twenty hours a week working on the campaign.

Pastor Jason Janz, pictured with son Hudson, is the founder of Citizens for Peace and Respect.
James Bludworth
Pastor Jason Janz, pictured with son Hudson, is the founder of Citizens for Peace and Respect.
Travis Butterworth, Stephanie Shearer and Raphael Shlosman of the Citizens for the Protection of the Right to Free Speech.
James Bludworth
Travis Butterworth, Stephanie Shearer and Raphael Shlosman of the Citizens for the Protection of the Right to Free Speech.

Sitting in a small conference room in the South Sheridan Baptist Church, a large but modest congregation on Denver's southwest side where Janz is a youth pastor, and where all of CPR's meetings are held, Janz does not fit the stereotypic profile of the out-of-touch theologian on a mission to eradicate the evils of rock and roll. Jerry Falwell he ain't. At 28, he is handsome, easygoing, the kind of guy you might expect to spend his spare time working on his golf swing, not his salvation. Janz has spent more time studying and listening to Marilyn Manson than most of his students at the South Sheridan Baptist-affiliated Silver Springs School -- or many music critics -- would ever care to. So when Josh Crockett, a young seminary graduate student hired to handle some of CPR's public-relations duties, offers to sit in on an interview to be sure Janz stays "on message," Janz insists he'll be just fine presenting the CPR platform all by himself.

He has, after all, had plenty of practice. Since CPR first went public with its four objectives -- to request that Manson's appearance be canceled, to discourage concert attendance, to raise awareness as to who Manson is, to unite people for positive impact upon Colorado -- Janz has given interview after interview to both print and broadcast reporters. At this point, the spiel is almost automatic.

"I had no idea that this would become the lighting rod that it has," he says. "The initial idea was that I just wanted to raise awareness about this man and his message. But overnight, it became a national issue. All of a sudden I've got phone calls from all the local media. Then Rolling Stone calls me. It has been more than I ever imagined. I feel like we are riding a tidal wave right now."

In the middle of that tidal wave, Janz says, some of the facts have become a bit jumbled. For one, while CPR makes its physical home in the South Sheridan church, it is a community -- not a religious -- group. The number of supporters who have endorsed the CPR effort has grown exponentially since the early days, he says, and while they do include a hefty showing of churches and Christian groups, CPR has also received the stamp of approval from secular businesses and individuals -- including Governor Bill Owens and Senator Tom Tancredo, who have both issued statements of support for CPR.

Yet Janz, a former missionary who has traveled to Africa, Russia and Yugoslavia, has maintained from the beginning that his efforts began with a covenant between himself and God: After seeing footage of oblivious parents dropping their kids off at an Eminem show, he vowed that, should Slim Shady or Marilyn Manson ever schedule a Denver appearance, he would do his best to prevent it from coming to fruition. And while the language on CPR's Web site, nomanson.org, is carefully non-religious, allusions to faith and Christian service inevitably creep into a conversation with Pastor Jay, as he is know around South Sheridan.

"I definitely view Denver's youth as a mission field," he says. "They are their own unique subculture, and as part of my covenant with God, I must try to reach them. Because of the history of the American teenager, you have to think of ways to reach that group. I think that's what we try to do."

The second misconception surrounding CPR is the notion that its disdain for Marilyn Manson is rooted in Columbine, according to Janz. He acknowledges that it's widely believed that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold found Marilyn Manson's theatrics and over-the-topisms to be too soft, preferring more hardcore outfits such as Germany's Rammstein and KMFDM. The perceived link between the band and the killers, however, has become a recent rallying point for Christian organizations and other groups who have shown up to protest Manson as far back as his early outings in 1995; on rare occasions, those efforts have resulted in the cancellation of scheduled Manson appearances. CPR has been accused of exploiting that easy -- if erroneous -- connection, especially in Colorado, where Columbine's wounds are still a long way from healing.

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