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Ex-Directors of Pageants Sue Crystal Cathedral Over Firings

Times Staff Writer

A dispute over rights to the popular Christmas and Easter pageants at the Rev. Robert H. Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral has moved to court, where former directors of the shows have sued to prevent future pageant productions.

Michael Coleman and Conwell Worthington, the duo who produced the pageants from 1983 to 1985, also asked for $55 million in damages in the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

They claimed that they were fired without cause in 1986 and replaced by Schuller’s son-in-law and that the Garden Grove church then failed to keep promises to buy their interest in the show.

Chuck Todd, general counsel for the cathedral, called the claims “groundless.”

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“More than a year ago, an extensive investigation was undertaken by the Crystal Cathedral employing consultants and legal experts in all areas of copyright law and drama,” Todd said. “The results of the investigation clearly demonstrated that there was no liability on the part of the cathedral to Worthington and Coleman.”

Cathedral officials also rejected an allegation by Worthington and Coleman that their firing was motivated by anti-Semitism. Coleman is Jewish.

The first Christmas pageant was held in 1981, the year after the cathedral opened. Last year, more than 191,000 people saw the “Glory of Christmas” production at the cathedral. The “Glory of Easter” production drew 103,000 in 1987.

The lawsuit alleges that the shows gross $5 million a year, a figure that could not be confirmed through the cathedral. When Worthington and Coleman were fired in 1986, cathedral officials said the change was needed to hold down costs of the pageants.

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