Make Worship Great Again: Petition CCLI to Remove Donald Trump’s “Worship” Song

trump jeff

If you missed last weekend’s big news, at the Celebrate Freedom Rally, held Saturday in Washington D.C. at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the choir and orchestra of First Baptist Dallas premiered a new “worship” song, “Make America Great Again.” See Sunday’s post for the lyrics and Saturday’s live premiere. The song was written by Gary Moore, who served FBC as Minister of Music from 1973 to 1981, according to an unofficial FBC history page.

When I checked Sunday afternoon, the song was listed in the Christian Copyright Licensing International database (CCLI). Most of you involved in church music ministry are familiar with CCLI. It maintains a database of Christian and worship songs, submitted to them by artists and publishers. Individuals and churches then purchase a yearly license that protects their use of the lyrics. As is clearly stated in their name, CCLI is a Christian service, with a commitment to protecting worship in the local church from liability due to copyright infringement.

“Make America Great Again” is not Christian in statement or purpose, and its blatant use of the Trump campaign slogan is something that church should quickly, unequivocally shun.

This sort of posturing is nothing new from FBC Dallas, Pastor Robert Jeffress, and the politically-minded “Religious Right” movement, among others. I’m asking you to join me in petitioning CCLI to remove “Make America Great Again” (Let’s just call it MAGA, shall we?) from its database of covered songs.

This is something that can happen. Corinne, a CCLI Intellectual Property Specialist, told me today via email that CCLI does not have a “set of criteria we use to filter out ‘non-worship’ songs.” However, their general agreement dictates: “CCLI reserves the right to withdraw from any Program any Work (Song) that, in its sole discretion, may be interpreted as objectionable, defamatory, obscene, blasphemous or unlawful.” 

Okay, so maybe removing this song from the CCLI database won’t make worship music great again. But it will do several things:

It will hold CCLI accountable to its stated purpose of facilitating corporate worship.

According to the CCLI website:

“As we state in our history, CCLI began as a ministry of the church and a service to the church, in order to better educate and equip the church about copyright laws, to protect the church from the consequences of copyright infringements and to encourage greater utilization of copyrights in church services.

Call CCLI to continue its ministry by not licensing content that is at odds with the nature and purpose of corporate worship in the church. “Make America Great Again” is not a Christian worship song, and it doesn’t belong in such a database.

It will make MAGA much more difficult to legally use the song in worship.

CCLI licenses its customers to store lyrics on local computers, print texts for congregational use, record live music in worship services, make custom arrangements, project lyrics, and translate songs for congregational use. If a song is not covered by CCLI, a church must make its own arrangements with the copyright holder, potentially incurring royalties. If they fail to do this, they are at risk for infringement. Chances are, the majority of churches, even evangelical ones, are not going to be rushing to do MAGA. But let’s limit that possibility as much as possible.

It will remove available resources from the CCLI SongSelect database.

As of now, this includes lyrics, key, and a recording, but could be expanded to include chord charts, piano/vocal arrangements, and instrumentation. Anyone desiring these resources would be forced to purchase them on their own.

It will limit the song’s publicity.

CCLI’s official position is that they neither promote nor endorse songs, artists, or composers. But they actually do, at least indirectly. CCLI maintains lists of its most popular and frequently performed songs. Trending songs are directly linked on the CCLI homepage. The database can be searched by title, author/composer, lyrics, theme, publisher, and year. If one enters “patriotic” into the search field, MAGA is the 10th result, and the 4th result with a recording. It’s not terribly difficult to find.

RNS-CELEBRATE-FREEDOM

This afternoon, I mailed the following letter to CCLI leadership:

The President and Chief Executive Officer
The Chairman and Founder
Christian Copyright Licensing International
17205 SE Mill Plain Blvd, Suite 150
Vancouver, WA 98683

Dear Sirs:

I am writing to request that you remove the new song “Make America Great Again” by Gary Moore from coverage under your copyright license. As is stated in your general agreement “CCLI reserves the right to withdraw from any Program any Work (Song) that, in its sole discretion, may be interpreted as objectionable, defamatory, obscene, blasphemous or unlawful.” “Make America Great Again” has no legitimate place in the context of Christian worship; in fact, if anything is being worshiped, it is the country itself. The purpose of corporate worship is the strengthening of the only Christian nation in history, the Church, so that it might be made into the likeness of Christ, its living Head. When the Church meets locally, its allegiance lies solely with Christ and his kingdom. While prayers of peace, justice, and blessing for the whole world are certainly appropriate as part of the Church’s gospel mission, the call to align ourselves in support of one particular country is blasphemous for those of us that pray with our Lord, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” It is further blasphemous and insulting to our Christian commitment that such a song be based on a U.S. presidential campaign motto.

I implore you to live up to your history and stated purpose as a ministry and service to the local church. Remove “Make America Great Again” from your list of covered songs, and all of its associated resources from your SongSelect database.

Sincerely,

Jonathan Aigner
Writer, Ponder Anew
Patheos Evangelical Channel
www.patheos.com/blogs/ponderanew/

I also emailed it, shared this post on Facebook, tweeted it to Mr. Hawker and CCLI, and posted the letter on the CCLI Facebook page.

If you’re concerned about “Make America Great Again” being a licensed Christian worship song, if you’re bothered by the persistent dilution of American Christianity with nationalistic fervor, if you think a presidential campaign slogan doesn’t make for good church music, then join me. Take a moment to let CCLI know you’re not okay with this. Please feel free to use any part of what I’ve written.

Christian Copyright Licensing International

Leadership
Malcolm Hawker, President and CEO (Twitter: @mhawker)
Howard Rachinski, Founder and Chairman

Global HQ Address
17205 SE Mill Plain Blvd, Suite 150
Vancouver, WA 98683

Phone
1 (360) 553-7500
Toll-Free: 1 (800) 234-2446
Fax: 1 (360) 553-7205

Email
support@ccli.com

Facebook
www.facebook.com/CCLI.Global/

Twitter
@ccli

Photos:
REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

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