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Texas Church at Center of #Scamilton Controversy Issues Formal Apology and Promises to Pay Damages for Unauthorized Version of ‘Hamilton’


Actor, composer, rapper, writer and creator of Hamilton Lin-Manuel Miranda speaks onstage.

The Texas church that put on an unauthorized performance of the musical Hamilton which included Christian and anti-LGBTQ themes has not only issued a public apology, but also agreed to pay damages.

In early August, Door Christian Fellowship Ministries in McAllen, Texas (known as The Door McAllen Church) staged a performance of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit musical, clips of which were posted online. In the church’s performance, changes were made to the original text, including the addition of multiple references to Jesus and Christianity.

Alterations made to the text for the performance dubbed “#Scamilton” by fans of the original included changing the show’s well-known opening line, “bastard, orphan, son of a whore” to “scoundrel, orphan, son of a harlot.” Likewise, instead of character Hercules Mulligan rapping, “It’s hard to have intercourse over four sets of corsets,” the character substituted, “It’s hard to keep them from me when I’m coming for your sources.”

Similarly, staging in a scene showing the titular character succumbing to an extramarital affair was changed to remove sexual references.

A scene was also added in which Alexander Hamilton repents and accepts Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

The performance was immediately followed up with a sermon that God could help people who “struggle” with their homosexuality, drugs, and alcohol.

After video footage circulated online, Pastor Roman Gutierrez told the church on Aug. 7 that, “We would like to once again thank the Hamilton team for giving us the license to perform our version of Hamilton.” Gutierrez acknowledge that footage was posted online, then explained, “We were immediately contacted by a lawyer for the Hamilton team who asked us to remove the footage,” and declared, “She gave us the okay to continue last night.”

Days later, Miranda tweeted, “Grateful to all of you who reached out about this illegal, unauthorized production,” and promised, “Now lawyers do their work.”

The Door McAllen thereafter abruptly shifted gears when it issued a detailed public apology on Tuesday. The church admitted via Instagram and Facebook posts Tuesday that it “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 Door McAllen statement

The Door McAllen also acknowledged its legal infraction, writing:

These copyrights are protected by federal law. We acknowledge there are lawful avenues to obtain a license to stage properties which we did not pursue. And it is never permissible to alter an artistic work such as Hamilton without legal permission. I 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. Our ministry will use this moment as a learning opportunity about protected artistic works and intellectual property.

Finally, the church promised never to stage the performance again, to destroy all recordings, and to pay for damages:

On behalf of The Door Christian Fellowship McAllen Church, we agree we will never stage the performance again and will destroy any and all video or sound recordings and images of the unauthorized performances or rehearsals, and request that all our members do the same. Lastly, we will pay damages for our actions.

On Wednesday, spokesperson for Hamilton provided an email statement to Law&Crime that said the following:

HAMILTON will be donating all damages paid by The Door Christian Fellowship McAllen Church to the South Texas Equality Project (STEP) The South Texas Equality Project is a coalition of organizations that work to advocate for, celebrate, uplift, educate, and provide support to the LGBTQIA+ community of the Rio Grande Valley.

Federal copyright law allows several exemptions for religious institutions, but those exemptions apply during religious services and not during general performances.

The Door McAllen did not immediately respond to request for comment.

[image via Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM]

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Elura is a columnist and trial analyst for Law & Crime. Elura is also a former civil prosecutor for NYC's Administration for Children's Services, the CEO of Lawyer Up, and the author of How To Talk To Your Lawyer and the Legalese-to-English series. Follow Elura on Twitter @elurananos