“Scamilton” flaunts copyright and faces outrage

By Morgan Miles, Staff Writer

A church fellowship in Texas has gone infamously viral for its Christian rendition of the Broadway musical Hamilton.  

In McAllen, Texas, The Door Christian Fellowship Ministries staged an unauthorized production with notable faith-based editing of original songs from Hamilton. Kicking off the beginning of August, the production — dubbed “Scamilton” in critiques and memes receiving millions of views on TikTok and other social media platforms — broadcasted on YouTube and had free tickets available on Eventbrite for the public.  

Since Hamilton is still performed live today, and the production team didn’t give permission to the church, the Door Christian Fellowship Ministries and co-producer RGV productions are facing legal consequences. 

Churches have an exemption that allows performances of copyrighted music during, or related to, religious services. The exemption, however, does not include streaming or distributing the performance in any way, shape or form. 

Shane Marshall Brown, a spokesperson for Hamilton, claimed that no amateur or professional license was granted to the church. A cease-and-desist letter regarding unauthorized intellectual property which requires removing the church’s production from social media was also issued.

The church not only performed without licensure, but has also faced public accusations of homophobia. The church utilized the familiar story and music of Hamilton to spread the idea of inherent sin in same-sex relationships. Roman Gutierrez, a senior pastor of the church, says he believes that homosexuals and other minority groups are welcome to join the church.  

In “Scamilton” there are an array of changes made to the original musical that have driven listeners to question Gutierrez’s statement. At the conclusion of “Scamilton,” another pastor’s altar call catapulted the church’s musical into fame. The pastor said, “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 pastor’s quote has offended LGBT+ communities and allies who feel that homosexuality is inappropriately equated in the performance to diseases like alcoholism. 

Another notable example  of text changes is the line, “But I’m not afraid, I know who I married,” in Hamilton’s “That Would Be Enough” being changed to “but I’m not afraid, my hope is in Jesus” in “Scamilton”.

Much of the backlash against the unauthorized production has stemmed from the idea that “Scamilton” subverts Hamilton’s themes of social justice. The original show made headlines for its race-blind casting and for featuring women characters in prominent roles in a traditionally White and male dominated story. 

Social media commentary has pointed to the irony of the anti-LGBT+ sentiment in this Chrisitian reinvention because Lin Manuel Miranda, who created Hamilton and starred in the titular starring role, has been a vocal ally of the LGBT+ community.

While the church has not directly responded to criticism of its production’s religious content, a pastor from the Door Christian Fellowship Ministries released a statement apologizing to Miranda and others who have contributed to Hamilton for their infringement of copyright. 

“Our ministry will use this moment as a learning opportunity about protected artistic works and intellectual property,” he wrote.