Josh Ritter, who will be at the Byham on May 20, found himself in a moral quandary last weekend when he was booked to play a small Pennsylvania college with a restrictive behavioral code he could not endorse.
Rather than walk away, he chose to play, while also calling attention to the school's anti-gay policy. Now, the 36-year-old singer-songwriter from Idaho, is getting attention for more than just acclaimed albums like "The Animal Years" and "The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter."
His post, about playing the show and now boycotting the school, has generated a huge debate on his Facebook page. Here is what he said:
I travel a lot - this month I was in fifteen cities in as many days. I always like to learn a little bit about the place I'm going to play - that Chicago has the fourth largest GDP of any world city, or that Louisville is famous for a sandwich known as the "Hot Brown."
Today I was Grantham, Pennsylvania, at Messiah College, and as I was doing a little digging about the place I learned something that surprised and disappointed me.
Messiah College requires all students to sign a "Community Covenant" promising to, among other things, "avoid such sinful practices as...homosexual behavior...."
This policy, which I see as exclusionary and bigoted, could not run more counter to my personal beliefs. If I had done my homework, and read about Messiah's policies ahead of time, I would never have agreed to play there.
I did play at Messiah College tonight, and I chose to use the opportunity to talk to the students - to encourage them to seek openness and change. 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 (thetrevorproject.org), the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.
I won't play Messiah College again - not until they welcome, in word and deed, all members of their faith regardless of sexuality, and I urge my fellow musicians to do the same.
- Josh Ritter