A church in Texas came under fire this week when clips emerged online of an altered production of the Broadway hit musical “Hamilton” featuring anti-gay sentiments that it live streamed and showcased to its congregation.
The Door McAllen Church and RGV Productions allegedly swapped out some of the original lyrics and also edited scenes to include biblical references and calls to salvation.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of “Hamilton,” called out the church for putting on the “illegal and unauthorized” production of his Tony award-winning musical.
“Grateful to all of you who reached out about this illegal, unauthorized production. Now lawyers do their work”, Miranda tweeted Wednesday to his 3.6 million followers.
He also included a statement from the Dramatist Guild, which also called out the unauthorized production, noting that, “No writer’s work, whether they are a student who has just written their first play, or Lin-Manuel Miranda, can be performed without their permission. And it is never okay to change the words, lyrics, or notes, without their express consent.”
In the original version of the song, the actor portraying Alexander Hamilton sings: “What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see. I wrote some notes at the beginning of a song someone will sing for me.”
In the video snippet Mehta posted, however, Door McAllen changed the lyrics in its performance to: “What is a legacy? It’s knowing that you repented and accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ that sets men free. You sent your sinless son of man on Calvary to die for me!”
At the conclusion of Door McAllen’s show, a pastor delivers a sermon that includes anti-LGBTQ messaging. The pastor states: “Maybe you struggle with alcohol, with drugs, with homosexuality, maybe you struggle with other things in life, your finances, whatever, God can help you tonight. He wants to forgive you for your sins.”
A spokesperson for the team behind the original Broadway musical said in a statement to CBS News that it sent the church a cease-and-desist letter after learning of the production. The full statement read:
“Hamilton does not grant amateur or professional licenses for any stage productions and did not grant one to The Door Church.
On Saturday, August 6, we were made aware of the unauthorized staging of HAMILTON by The Door Church in McAllen, TX that took place on Friday, August 5, and their plans for additional performances. We issued a cease and desist letter for the unauthorized use of Hamilton’s intellectual property, demanding the immediate removal of all videos and images from previous productions from the internet, including YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, their own website, and elsewhere.
Hamilton informed the Church after receiving a response to the cease and desist letter, that they could proceed with the August 6 performance, on the conditions that (a) it was not live-streamed or recorded; (b) no photos or videos of the performance be posted; (c) they not mount any further productions; (d) this limited permission was without prejudice, and we reserved all rights and remedies; and (e) we would be discussing this matter with the parties behind this unauthorized production within the coming days once all facts are properly vetted.The Hamilton family stands for tolerance, compassion, inclusivity and certainly LGBTQ+ rights. We are in the process of reviewing the unauthorized changes made to the script to determine further action.We would like to thank our devoted fans for bringing this to our attention.”
According to copyright laws, churches have an exemption that allows them to perform copyrighted music during religious services, but that exemption does not include streaming or distribution of those performances and any other public performances outside of service.
Weeks after Lin-Manuel Miranda called out the production, the church’s pastor apologized on Instagram. Roman Gutierrez, the pastor, confirmed in the post that the church did not get authorization to put on their production of the musical and apologized for infringing “on the rights and copyrights of many.”
“The Door Christian Fellowship McAllen Church did not ask for, or receive, a license from the producers or creators of Hamilton to produce, stage, replicate or alter any part of Hamilton; nor did we seek prior permission to alter Lin-Manuel Miranda’s work by changing the music, the lyrics, deleting songs, and adding dialogue,” the post said.
The post said the church would never hold the performance again and would destroy any video or audio recordings that had been taken, adding that it will pay “damages” for what transpired.
“l recognize as the Pastor of the church that I have an obligation and responsibility to follow the law and educate our community about these protocols,” Gutierrez said. “Our ministry will use this moment as a learning opportunity about protected artistic works and intellectual property.”