Reading Time: 4 minutes

The Door McAllen, a church in Texas, has been under serious scrutiny for the past several days after performing an unlicensed, Jesus-centric production of Hamilton over the weekend. The show is not available for any outside group to perform right now, much less a church that changes the show’s message. Making matters worse, Friday night’s performance ended with a short sermon that mentioned “homosexuality” as a struggle people needed to overcome.

This morning, Hamilton‘s creator Lin-Manuel Miranda finally chimed in with a tweet. He called the show an “illegal, unauthorized production,” linked to a statement from the Dramatists Guild which called out the church’s “brazen infringement,” and let people know lawyers were on the case:

But one thing missing from this story is the fact that this particular church has been doing this sort of thing for years, taking popular secular movies or shows and Christianizing them. An archived version of the website for The Door McAllen shows they’ve done this sort of thing for Despicable Me, Toy Story, and Beauty and the Beast.

So when the Hamilton controversy began catching fire, the church took down video of its Friday night livestream… along with videos of all those older shows. Perhaps they thought it would be best to hide the evidence.

Well.

About that.

OnlySky was able to acquire a copy of The Door McAllen church’s 2018 performance of Beauty and the Beast.

And, yes, The Door McAllen pulled the same damn stunts, taking the entire Beauty and the Beast script from the Disney movie’s stage adaptation (presumably without permission), advertising it with the poster from the 2017 live-action movie, altering the words to spread a Christian message, and making sure the Beast gets “saved” in the end.

They also used a karaoke version of the film’s soundtrack in the background, singing over the music, but all of that is illegal without permission from the show’s producers. They also included the song “Evermore,” which only appears in the live-action movie. That song’s use would have required separate rights.

Chris Peterson, founder of the OnStage Blog, shared his copy of the production with me before posting longer clips from the show on his own site. I tried to condense the most damning parts down to under two minutes:

Among the notable deviations from the Disney script:

  • Belle prays for help in seeing the Beast as more than a monster: “Jesus, I know there’s good in the Beast. Help me to see the good in him just as You see the good in me.”
  • When the Beast introduces Belle to his library, they realize they’ve both read the Bible. The Beast dismisses it as no “different from any other fairy tale.” But Belle reassures him, “You almost lost your life for me. And Jesus was willing to do the same for you.” Unless the Beast accepts Christ, she adds, he’ll never be able to love others.
  • In a climactic moment, the Beast finds God: “I thought it was all a fairy tale… Jesus, I understand it now. You also sacrificed Your life. You were able to look past my sin and sacrifice Your life for even a beast like me.”
  • As the Beast is dying near the end of the show, he looks to Belle and says to her, “At least I got to see you one last time and know the true love of Jesus Christ.”
  • And after the Beast is transformed into a handsome prince once again, he says to everyone, “My sins have brought a curse upon this entire castle. But since you showed me who Jesus really is, and the love that He has for me, only then… was I able to share that love. Jesus Christ broke the curse and gave us all a second chance!”

Needless to say, none of that is in the animated movie, the live-action movie, or the Broadway version of the show. It’s not just copyright infringement; it’s changing the show to send a message the creators of the movie never intended. It’s illegal. The fact that this video was on YouTube until this past weekend basically means that an intentionally copied version of the animated film/show/live-action movie was shared on the church’s YouTube channel, allowing people to see it for free instead of through a channel that would’ve paid the people who created it.

Peterson points out one other problem:

Finally, there’s another wrinkle in all of this – while the church doesn’t appear to have charged tickets to the event, they did sell concessions. The clip below shows a church official advertising the concessions being sold during the performance. This means monies were earned during a violation of copyrighted material.

It’s just a series of bad decisions that shows how little respect the people at The Door McAllen church have for the creative minds of people whose works they’re co-opting for their own purposes. Ignorance is no excuse for doing this sort of thing year after year.

The Hamilton fiasco wasn’t a one-off error. It was the culmination of years of experience stealing secular works and purposely altering them for a Christian audience in order to spread the Gospel.

It’s appalling behavior. And maybe now, thanks to the negative publicity they’re receiving this week, they’ll finally change their ways. (We’ll see what the Hamilton lawyers do.)

What does it tell you about their Christian values, though, when they need secular watchdogs to point out what the ethical high road looks like?

Avatar photo

Hemant Mehta is the founder of FriendlyAtheist.com, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.