Hillsong Church has been under the critical eye this week. During their women's conference in New York, Hillsong NYC's youth pastor appeared on the stage as New York's "Naked Cowboy." Dressed only in his underwear, partly covered by a flag and a guitar, the "Naked Cowboy" received many criticisms. Many have deemed that it was inappropriate to have a man dressed only in his briefs at a Christian women's conference.
"I usually don't expect to see a near-naked cowboy gyrating from the stage of a Christian women's conference," Amy Spreeman of Berean Research wrote. "Nor would I see and hear thousands of Christian females applauding and squealing in delight, and spurring on the performance. Indeed if I were of the world, I'd expect these sights and sounds to come from a giant bachelorette party at a strip club."
The footage shows members of the church performing to the song "New York, New York," with people dressed in costumes like the Statue to Liberty, firemen, and Broadway dancers. One was apparently portraying New York's well-known street performer, the "Naked Cowboy." "The Naked Cowboy" has been identified as Hillsong NYC youth leader and former model Diego Simila.
Not only were church members upset, even the original Naked Cowboy (Robert John Burck) was not happy. His representative, Todd Rubenstein, issued this statement: "I represent Naked Cowboy and own Naked Cowboy Enterprises, LLC. I am the sole administrator of the Naked Cowboy® registered trademarks. I am the only person who can provide license of use of anything associated with Naked Cowboy and Hillsong has never requested any right to use our registered trademarks or Naked Cowboy's likeness."
"Mr. Burck is an Ordained Minister & would NEVER attend church in the house of the Lord in his Trade Dress and is EXTREMELY offended by this activity due to his deep Christian beliefs and respect for the process of gathering in the name of Jesus Christ and in the presence of God to worship and praise the Holy Father."
Burck is not only upset because of the alleged copyright violation, with Hillsong imitating his likeness without permission, but he is "EXTREMELY offended" because he is a deeply committed Christian minister who would never show up in church in his trademark underwear outfit.