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Lin-Manuel Miranda responds to 'illegal, unauthorized' 'Hamilton' play by Texas church

The Dramatists Guild — a professional organization representing playwrights, composers and lyricists — also condemned the church “for its unauthorized production” of “Hamilton.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda performs during the 70th Annual Tony Awards on June 12, 2016, in New York.
Lin-Manuel Miranda performs during the 70th annual Tony Awards on June 12, 2016, in New York.Theo Wargo / Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

"Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda is defending his award-winning work after a Texas church staged an allegedly unauthorized version of the Broadway musical.

"Grateful to all of you who reached out about this illegal, unauthorized production. Now lawyers do their work," Miranda tweeted Wednesday.

Last weekend, The Door Christian Fellowship Ministries in McAllen, Texas, produced and livestreamed a rendition of “Hamilton” that appeared to conclude with a sermon by a church pastor comparing being gay to being addicted to alcohol or drugs.

The final sermon by an associate pastor, Victor Lopez, compared homosexuality to drug addiction, according to a full video of the performance.

“Maybe you struggle with alcohol, with drugs, homosexuality, maybe you struggle with other things in life, your finances, whatever, relationships,” the video shows Lopez say. “God can help you tonight.” 

The livestream video has been taken down, but NBC News obtained a recording of the performance from writer and atheism advocate Hemant Mehta. Mehta would not identify whom he obtained the video from. 

The Texas church could potentially face legal penalties related to copyright infringement, allegedly producing the show without permission and implementing script changes to include religious references — but nothing had been filed in court as of Wednesday evening.

The Dramatists Guild — a professional organization representing playwrights, composers and lyricists — also condemned the church "for its unauthorized production" of "Hamilton."

"In addition to performing the show without a license, the Door McAllen Church changed lyrics and added text without permission," the Dramatists Guild said in a statement. "We hold up the Door McAllen Church’s brazen infringement to shine a light on the problematic pattern of some theatrical organizations performing authors’ work without a license and rewriting the text without authorial consent."

"No organization, professional, amateur, or religious, is exempt from these laws," the guild added. "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 his tweet Wednesday, Miranda added that he is "always grateful to the @dramatistsguild, who have the backs of writers everywhere, be it your first play or your fiftieth."

The "Hamilton" version staged by the church also included several biblical references that were not originally in the Tony Award-winning musical, according to a description of the livestream by Howard Sherman, the director of the Arts Integrity Initiative at The New School in New York City, who was not affiliated with the performance.

Sherman said the production, which was first reported on by OnStage Blog, changed one of the main characters’ lines by adding the sentence, “Jesus gives me the strength to pull through; when I needed him most he was right on time.” 

Another line from a video posted by Mehta shows the actor portraying Alexander Hamilton reciting more changed lyrics.

“What is a legacy?” the actor says. “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.”

Representatives for the church did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday. But in a statement to The Dallas Morning News, Roman Gutierrez, a pastor at The Door Christian Fellowship Ministries in McAllen, said that the church is not anti-LGBTQ and that the church had received legal permission from “Hamilton” to produce the show.

Shane Marshall Brown, a spokesperson for the official “Hamilton” production, said it does not grant amateur or professional licenses for any stage productions and that it did not authorize the church to put on the performance.

The “Hamilton” production was made aware Saturday of an “unauthorized staging” of the musical from the night before, he said.

It was also told the church was planning to hold additional performances, according to Brown, prompting a cease-and-desist letter for "unauthorized use of Hamilton’s intellectual property,” as well as a demand that the church immediately remove any videos of the production from its social media accounts and website.

The church had also planned to hold a performance Saturday night. After “Hamilton” received a response to the cease-and-desist letter, the production informed the church that it could proceed with its last performance as long as it did not record or broadcast it and it did not put on any further production, Brown said. Another condition was that “Hamilton” would be discussing the matter “with the parties behind this unauthorized production within the coming days once all facts are properly vetted.”

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