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Thou shalt not violate copyright

It’s right there in the Commandments.

A McAllen church is facing backlash for illegally performing Hamilton with anti-LGBTQ messaging and biblical themes, according to multiple reports. The Door Christian Fellowship Ministries of McAllen changed Lin-Manuel Miranda’s rendition of the musical to incorporate a sermon that compared being gay with having an addiction.

The Hamilton team in New York told the Washington Post that it did not give a license or permission to the Door McAllen church in McAllen to stage the performance and that it was an illegal reproduction. The OnStage Blog, the first to report about the show, revealed the production live streamed the unauthorized show on Friday, August 5.

During the live streams, characters Alexander Hamilton and Eliza Schuyler Hamilton talked about how Jesus “saved” them. After one of the performances, Pastor Victor Lopez gave a sermon with language that compared being gay to alcohol and drug addiction, according to OnStage Blog.

“He knows exactly what you’ve gone through,” Lopez said, referring to God, according to the video. “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.”

In a statement to the Dallas Morning News, Pastor Roman Gutierrez said he acquired legal permission from the team behind Hamilton to produce the church’s show. In a sermon on Sunday, August 7, Gutierrez said that he received a request from a lawyer to remove videos of the performance published online. He added the church is not anti-LGBTQ and “everyone is always welcome”

Miranda’s Hamilton team denied giving the pastor permission to perform the show, according to the Dallas Morning News. The team said that they sent the church a cease and desist letter on Saturday, August 6 after the Friday performance. Hamilton allowed the church to continue with Saturday’s show as long as no pictures or videos were taken.

Yeah, you don’t get to put on a performance of copyrighted material without a license. You sure as heck don’t get to change the words and lyrics to a musical without the permission of the copyright holder. This is not complicated or mysterious stuff. And yes, despite their protest, this wretched performance and its accompanying sermon were anti-LGBTQ. Again, this is not complicated or mysterious.

The OnStage Blog has been all over this, cataloging the changes the church made to the script, running statements from the Hamilton team and Lin-Manuel Miranda, and my personal favorite, documenting that this same church pulled the same stunt with Beauty and the Beast in 2018. The fact that they avoided any repercussions from Disney’s squadron of IP attorneys is kind of a miracle, I have to admit.

Anyway. I don’t know if this will end up being a temporary kerfuffle or if The Door Christian Fellowship Ministries will get its collective butt dragged into court for their utter disregard for the law. I think they should, as this is not their first offense and they clearly need to have the message about respecting other people’s creations implanted. I’ll keep my eyes open for further updates. WFAA has more.

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