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Texas Church Will Pay Damages For Illegally Performing ‘Hamilton’ And Adding In Religious Themes

Forbes 8/23/2022 Alison Durkee, Forbes Staff

Topline

The Door McAllen Church in McAllen, Texas, has formally apologized for mounting an unauthorized production of the musical Hamilton and changing it to add Christian themes, saying Tuesday it would pay damages to the production after it “infringed on the rights and copyrights of many.”

'Hamilton' plays at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway in New York City. AFP via Getty Images © Provided by Forbes 'Hamilton' plays at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway in New York City. AFP via Getty Images

Key Facts

The church and pastor Roman Gutierrez posted an apology to Instagram to “personally apologize” to Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and others involved with the production for its unauthorized production, which was performed on August 5 and 6.

Gutierrez acknowledged the church did not ask or receive permission to perform the show or alter it, as the production changed and added lyrics and dialogue to incorporate Christian themes.

The church “will pay damages for our actions,” the statement said, but did not specify the amount, and it will also destroy all video and photos of the production and never mount future performances.

Hamilton will donate the damages it receives to the South Texas Equality Project, a local organization that supports LGBTQ rights, Hamilton spokesperson Shane Marshall Brown confirmed to Forbes, after the church’s production of Hamilton included a sermon that described homosexuality as being a sin.

Door McAllen’s statement came after Miranda disavowed the Texas production on Twitter on August 10 and suggested the show would take legal action against it, writing, “Now lawyers do their work.”

Brown declined to comment further on Hamilton’s response to the church’s apology or the amount the production requested in damages.

Crucial Quote

“Our ministry will use this moment as a learning opportunity about protected artistic works and intellectual property,” Gutierrez wrote on the church’s behalf, acknowledging it is “never permissible to alter an artistic work such as Hamilton without legal permission.”

Key Background

Door McAllen Church drew widespread criticism for its production of Hamilton, which initially gained national attention after being livestreamed and broadcast online. Brown previously told Forbes that the production sent a cease and desist letter to the church after learning of its first performance on August 5, as the show was unauthorized, but allowed its August 6 performance to move forward as long as there were no photo or video recordings of the show. (The production was unaware of the anti-LGBTQ comments being made during the show’s sermon when it granted permission for the second performance, Brown told the New York Times.) Before issuing its statement Tuesday, the church had falsely stated it had received permission from Hamilton for the show to take place, claiming during its service on August 7 that the show’s legal team had “giv[en] us the license to perform our version of Hamilton”—which is not the case, as Brown confirmed the production only gave the church “limited permission” to perform its August 6 performance only and not a full license. Hamilton and other musicals that are currently running on Broadway typically don’t grant licenses for any amateur or regional productions of the show, given that it could affect the Broadway production’s ticket sales by giving audiences a cheaper way to see it. Altering the content of a show, as the church did, would also require additional permission even if it received the license to perform it.

Further Reading:

‘Hamilton’ Says It Didn’t Give Texas Church Permission To Perform Musical—And Change It To Be About Jesus (Forbes)

‘Hamilton’ Team Protests After Church Production Adds Christian Themes (New York Times)

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