Messiah College officials were stunned by singer Josh Ritter's criticism during his concert there Friday, a spokeswoman said, especially since the singer performed there in the past.

During the concert, Ritter chose to talk to the students about "openness and change" and also vowed not to come back unless the college welcomes all students of faith regardless of sexual orientation, according to a Huffington Post report.

Ritter followed up on his Facebook page over the weekend, calling the Cumberland County college "exclusionary and bigoted." The singer added he would never have played there had he known the college requires students to sign a "Community Covenant" promising to, among other things, "avoid such sinful practices as homosexual behavior."

Beth Lorow, the Messiah spokeswoman, said Ritter should know a little more about where he is playing. Especially Messiah, since he played a 2009 concert there.

"We're a little puzzled," she said. "We're a Christian college ... We are surprised that he would be surprised that we have a traditional Scriptural interpretation of human sexuality."

Lorow could not recall any similar problems with performers at Messiah. She equated Ritter's commentary with "name calling" that isn't much different from the intolerance he claims to oppose.

"It's just not helpful to the conversation at large," Lorow said, adding that Ritter never sought to speak with the college beforehand. "We are kind of feeling like it was an unfortunate development for a concert experience."

Ritter's concert was in the Larson Student Union and likely seen by a few hundred students at most, she added.

In his Facebook statement, Ritter expanded on his stance:

"I spoke honestly about my personal views - that we should all have the right to love - and to marry freely, no matter what our sexual orientation. Everyone was respectful and kind, and it is my hope that they'll continue to demand a change to the Community Covenant.

"I hope to have made the best of a difficult situation. I'm donating the fee I received from Messiah College tonight in its entirety to The Trevor Project (, the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.

Josh Ritter
Josh Ritter

Fans might not consider Ritter a political partisan - though he has brought up philosophical issues in his songs - because he doesn't talk about the politics often.

During an interview with FlipSide late last month, Ritter said he keeps up with politics. The topic came up since Ritter's May 21 concert is the same day as the primary in Pennsylvania.

Ritter said watching his marriage fall apart made him think more about marriage equality. He realized that, to him, it's important that everyone has the right to marry.

"I don't know what it was about divorce that gave me a window into that," he added.

@jhilton32; 717-771-2024

Erin McCracken contributed to this story.


Josh Ritter opened up to FlipSide last month about his divorce, gay-rights stance and new music. Ritter will perform in York at a May 21 CapLive concert.

2009 FlipSide interview with Josh Ritter.

Two years ago, Messiah College came under scrutiny for a "community covenant" that barred "homosexual behavior.".

Ritter's sound