A Texas church was condemned for putting on an unauthorized performance of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Hamilton with modified lyrics to include references to Jesus and Christianity and anti-LGBTQ+ messages.
The musical about American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton was written by Lin-Manuel Miranda and is described as “a story about America then, told by America now," represented by a diverse cast.
The Door McAllen church in South Texas, violated copyright law by putting on a live-streamed public performance of the modified version of the musical outside of religious services.
Shane Marshall Brown, a spokesperson for the musical, issued a statement on Monday expressing:
"'Hamilton' does not grant amateur or professional licenses for any stage productions and did not grant one to The Door Church."
Brown added officials for Hamilton were not aware of the unauthorized production produced by the Door McAllen and RGV Productions until after the church's first of two scheduled performances.
According to copyright laws, churches have an exemption allowing them to perform copyright music as long as they are performed during religious services and not streamed, distributed, or performed in public outside of service.
With official companies on Broadway, Chicago, San Francisco, and other cities like London–in addition to national tours–Hamilton is not available for licensing to theatre companies, let alone churches.
Officials immediately sent The Door a cease-and-desist letter.
In one of the clips shared by Podcaster Hemant Mehta–a writer and atheist advocate–an actress playing Eliza Eliza Schuyler sings:
"My hope is in Jesus. If you could just give him a chance today, that would be enough."
In another clip—which Mehta said he didn't remember this particular scene from the original production–Hamilton is asked:
“Do you not only confess but repent of all of your sin? Do you accept him as your Lord and savior?”
“Heavenly father, I pray for Alexander, I pray that you bring him peace of mind, that you would restore his family and marriage. In Jesus’ mighty name, I pray.”
Another scene showed the altered lyrics for “The World Was Wide Enough.”
In the original version of the show, 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.”
The Door's version, however, does a different take.
The actor playing Hamilton in the clip sang:
“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!”
The illegal performance of the edited show that included biblical references not mentioned in Miranda's original version of the musical was followed by a sermon in which Pastor Victor Lopez demonized homosexuality and compared it to drug addiction.
According to circulating footage, Lopez said:
“He knows exactly what you’ve gone through. You’ve gone through maybe broken marriages. 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.”
The spokesperson continued expressing that Hamilton "does not grant amateur or professional licenses for any stage productions" and that they did not grant one to The Door Church.
“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.”
"We have reserved all of our rights and are considering how to proceed based upon what we've learned."
"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."
The internet was gobsmacked over the liberties taken to alter the highly-venerated Broadway production.
Senior Pastor Roman Gutierrez issued a statement telling Dallas Morning News that the church had acquired legal permission from the Hamilton teamto produce the version of the show with biblical references.
But in a Sunday sermon, Gutierrez noted the church received the legal request to remove online performance footage that was being used to promote the show online.
Gutierrez also maintained the church was not anti-LGBTQ, saying, “Everyone is always welcome.”
According to its website, The Door Christian Fellowship Ministries of McAllen is a nondenominational entity founded with the intention of “reaching lost souls with their compassion and desire to serve."
CNN reported that Howard Sherman, an arts administrator and writer, was the first to share news of the church's illegal production of Hamilton.
"The work of Lin Manuel [sic], Tommy Kail, Alex Lacamoire, Andy Blankenbuehler, David Korins and others cannot be taken for free or manipulated to send other messages," wrote Sherman, adding:
"I respect all faiths, but I cannot respect The Door McAllen for stealing material to serve their own purposes."
Miranda has not yet publicly commented on the unauthorized production of his show.
UPDATE 8/11/22: Since this article was published, Lin Manuel Miranda tweeted the following in response to the unauthorized production: