Story at a glance

  • Kanye West is headlining an Evangelical prayer rally at a stadium in Arizona this weekend.
  • The 10-hour event, called “Awaken 2020,” features prominent anti-LGBTQ+ crusaders including Guillermo Maldonado, Cindy Jacobs and Lou Engle.
  • West’s beliefs on LGBTQ+ rights are unclear, but his association with such figures is causing controversy.

Ever since Kanye West formed the gospel choir Sunday Service Collective in 2019, they haven’t missed a Sunday at church. This weekend, they’ll be sharing the pulpit at a prayer rally with several Evangelical celebrities who preach against the LGBTQ+ community.  

The free 10-hour event, called “Awaken 2020,” will be held at Sun Devil Stadium in Phoenix on Jan. 18. The rapper and producer was officially announced as a headliner on Jan. 8, the last to join a lineup that includes anti-LGBTQ+ crusaders Cindy Jacobs, Lou Engle and Guillermo Maldonado. 

Cindy Jacobs, co-founder of prayer-based organization Generals International, which is listed as a collaborator for the event, is an opponent of the Equality Act — which protects against discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation — saying "we would even come to a civil war if this continues." And Guillermo Maldonado, co-founder of Miami church El Rey Jesus, is known for spreading his anti-LGBTQ+ views both through his sermons and writings. 

Lou Engle, co-founder of prayer movement The Call, also has a history of opposing LGBTQ+ rights around the world and was listed as a speaker and collaborator, but all mention of him has been removed from the Awaken 2020 website.

The organizers released a statement on Jan. 18 saying "Awaken 2020 has no place for affiliation of hate or harm toward any other person.  If any of our past potential or current event participants, speakers, and collaborators were affiliated with any such harmful platforms in any way or at any time, we do not support any view points as such."

West has collaborated with other evangelicals in the past, including televangelist Joel Osteen — who has said “homosexuality is a sin."

While the artist himself has spoken in support of LGBTQ+ people like his cousin and Caitlyn Jenner — his mother-in-law who is transgender — recent years have seen him espousing more conservative Evangelical views. And this weekend he will be standing alongside them on a national stage. 

Editor's note: This story has been updated with a comment from Awaken 2020 organizers and to reflect their disaffiliation with Lou Engle.

Published on Jan 17, 2020